The subsequent morning, Jere checked Twitter, the place he was each horrified and relieved to study that hundreds of others had acquired the identical risk. “Had I been one of many solely folks to get the mail, I might have been extra scared,” he says.
Vastaamo ran the most important community of personal mental-health suppliers in Finland. In a rustic of simply 5.5 million—about the identical because the state of Minnesota—it was the “McDonald’s of psychotherapy,” one Finnish journalist advised me. And due to that, the assault on the corporate rocked all of Finland. Round 30,000 persons are believed to have acquired the ransom demand; some 25,000 reported it to the police. On October 29, a headline within the Helsinki Occasions learn: “Vastaamo Hacking May Flip Into Largest Legal Case in Finnish Historical past.” That prediction appears to have come true.
If the scale of the attack was surprising, so was its cruelty. Not simply because the information have been so delicate; not simply because the attacker, or attackers, singled out sufferers like wounded animals; but additionally as a result of, out of all of the nations on earth, Finland ought to have been among the many finest in a position to forestall such a breach. Together with neighboring Estonia, it’s extensively thought of a pioneer in digital well being. Because the late Nineteen Nineties, Finnish leaders have pursued the precept of “citizen-centered, seamless” care, backed up by investments in know-how infrastructure. At this time, each Finnish citizen has entry to a extremely safe service referred to as Kanta, the place they will browse their very own therapy information and order prescriptions. Their well being suppliers can use the system to coordinate care.
Vastaamo was a personal firm, however it appeared to function in the identical spirit of tech-enabled ease and accessibility: You booked a therapist with a couple of clicks, wait occasions have been tolerable, and Finland’s Social Insurance coverage Establishment reimbursed a giant chunk of the session payment (supplied you had a recognized psychological dysfunction). The corporate was run by Ville Tapio, a 39-year-old coder and entrepreneur with sharp eyebrows, slicked-back brown hair, and a heavy jawline. He’d cofounded the corporate together with his mother and father. They pitched Vastaamo as a humble family-run enterprise dedicated to bettering the psychological well being of all Finns.
For almost a decade, the corporate went from success to success. Positive, some questioned the purity of Tapio’s motives; Kristian Wahlbeck, director of growth at Finland’s oldest psychological well being nonprofit, says he was “a bit frowned-upon” and “perceived as too business-minded.” And sure, there have been occasional tales about Vastaamo doing shady-seeming issues, corresponding to utilizing Google adverts to attempt to poach potential sufferers from a college clinic, because the newspaper Iltalehti reported. However folks saved signing up. Tapio was so assured in what he’d created that he spoke about taking his mannequin abroad.
Earlier than “the incident,” Tapio says, “Vastaamo produced numerous social good.” Now he’s an ex-CEO, and the corporate he based is being bought for components. “I’m so unhappy to see all of the work finished and the longer term alternatives all of the sudden go to waste,” he says. “The way in which it ended feels horrible, pointless, and unjustified.”
Tapio grew up in a “peaceable and inexperienced” neighborhood in northern Helsinki throughout a foul recession. His mom, Nina, was a trauma psychotherapist, and his father, Perttu, a priest. His grandparents gave him a used Commodore 64 when he was 10, which led him to an curiosity in coding. One thing in his mind resonated with the logical problem of it, he says. He additionally noticed it as a “software to construct one thing actual.”
The obsession endured: In center faculty Tapio coded a statistics system for his basketball staff, and in highschool he labored for the Helsinki Training Division, displaying academics tips on how to use their computer systems. Slightly than going to varsity, he arrange a web-based store promoting laptop components—his first enterprise, funded with “a couple of tens of euros,” he says. A few years later, at age 20, he joined a small administration consultancy.