In 1995, I was a postgraduate student at Aalto University. Out of a burning need to protect the identity and login credentials of our research team, I invented and published the SSH* protocol. Now – some 20 years later – that same protocol is practically in every computer on the planet.
*SSH: The SSH protocol (also referred to as Secure Shell) is a method for secure remote login from one computer to another. It provides several alternative options for strong authentication, and it protects the communications security and integrity with strong encryption.
So, what is it about Finland that has made it such a petri dish for cybersecurity? This small Northern European nation of 5 million people seems to boast a disproportionately large population of experts on cryptography, information security, and cyber defense. Traditional explanations focus on the high level of (freely available) education. This certainly seems to be a contributing factor, since most of the Finnish Cybersecurity scene has ties to the same local Aalto University that I am an alumni of.
Some have suggested it might be because of the stereotypically introverted nature of Finns. While there may be some truth to the stereotype, a more likely explanation could perhaps be the national pastime of risk management. Life in the harsh northern conditions is not always easy, nor without risk, and for all of its history, Finland has been sandwiched between the East and the West. The hardships have ingrained into the national character the practice of considering all things from the perspective of risk AND reward.
So, perhaps it happened that when faced with the digital revolution, Finnish entrepreneurs saw not only a great opportunity in services and applications, but realized also the threats posed by digitalization – and the opportunities within. Along with SSH Communications Security, the local cybersecurity landscape sports dozens of other companies, and big players such as Intel have already tapped the acquisition potential of this market.
The Finnish cybersecurity cluster has been maturing along with the digitalization of society. The ongoing cloud transformation has also reinvigorated the information security field, as the volumes and complexities of the new service architectures re-use existing innovations, and demand new. So, for the Next Big Thing in cybersecurity, maybe the direction to look is north?
Founder & CEO, SSH Communications Security
Tatu invented the SSH protocol in 1995 and continues to passionately secure the ever-changing digital world. He has authored the NIST IR 7966 and he is an expert authority in cybersecurity, IAM, PKI, cloud security, IoT, and compliance.