Then a Hacker Began Posting Patients’ Deepest Secrets Online

Then a Hacker Began Posting Patients’ Deepest Secrets Online

The next morning, Jere checked Twitter, where he was both horrified and relieved to learn that thousands of others had received the same threat. “Had I been one of the only people to get the mail, I would have been more scared,” he says.

Vastaamo ran the largest network of private mental-health providers in Finland. In a country of just 5.5 million—about the same as the state of Minnesota—it was the “McDonald’s of psychotherapy,” one Finnish journalist told me. And because of that, the attack on the company rocked all of Finland. Around 30,000 people are believed to have received the ransom demand; some 25,000 reported it to the police. On October 29, a headline in the Helsinki Times read: “Vastaamo Hacking Could Turn Into Largest Criminal Case in Finnish History.” That prediction seems to have come true.

If the scale of the attack was shocking, so was its cruelty. Not just because the records were so sensitive; not just because the attacker, or attackers, singled out patients like wounded animals; but also because, out of all the countries on earth, Finland should have been among the best able to prevent such a breach. Along with neighboring Estonia, it is widely considered a pioneer in digital health. Since the late 1990s, Finnish leaders have pursued the principle of “citizen-centered, seamless” care, backed up by investments in technology infrastructure. Today, every Finnish citizen has access to a highly secure service called Kanta, where they can browse their own treatment records and order prescriptions. Their health providers can use the system to coordinate care.

Vastaamo was a private company, but it seemed to operate in the same spirit of tech-enabled ease a ..

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