Mental health patients blackmailed following major hack in Finland

The Associated Press is reporting on a major cybersecurity incident occurring within the nation of Finland. According to the AP report, patients who use Vastaamo (a subcontractor for psychiatric care in the Finnish health system) are being blackmailed. The issue is being handled by Finnish police, as well as various government leaders within the country.

It began in November 2018 when cybercriminals breached the internal network of Vastaamo. This would set in motion a series of data-stealing events that did not stop until March 2019. Fast forward to today, and it is becoming clear just what the data was stolen for.

At least 300 individuals who received mental health treatment from Vastaamo have been threatened with blackmail. The messages are sent via Tor and use the personal information disclosed in therapy to extort cash from victims. The AP report states that the blackmail amounts begin at the bitcoin equivalent of 200 euros, increasing to 500 euros if the demands are not met within 24 hours. If the ransom is ignored, the attackers (who dubbed themselves “ransom_man”) publishes therapy notes of the patients. Vastaamo has also received blackmail threats demanding 450,000 Euros worth of bitcoin. The Finnish government is urging anyone contacted by a blackmailer to notify the police.

Public statements from government leaders and cybersecurity experts reflect shock and anger. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto stated these attacks are “cruel” and “repulsive,” and Prime Minister Sanna Marin called the situation “shocking in many ways.”

Perhaps the best summation of the Vastaamo hacking case came from Finnish cybersecurity expert Mikko Hyppönen. The CRO of F-Secure stated the following on Twitter:

This is a very sad case for the victims, some of which are underage. The attacker has no shame... I’m aware of only one other patient blackmail case that would be even remotely similar: the Center for Facial Restoration incident in Florida in 2019. This was a different medical area and had a smaller number of victims, but the basic idea was the same.

With such a large social stigma still existing for those who suffer from mental health issues, this journalist included, the sanctity of a therapy session must never be disrespected. Global health care, especially mental health care, is in such a fragile state right now. As such, this incident is the worst possible thing to occur at this moment. Who knows how many individuals may now fear getting treatment because monsters like ransom_man exist to blackmail them? How many lives will suffer in silence, or worse, end because of this?

Let justice come, and let it be as merciless as this bastard has been to their victims.

Featured image: Shutterstock

Derek Kortepeter

Derek Kortepeter is a graduate of UCLA and tech journalist that is committed to creating an informed society with regards to Information Security. Kortepeter specializes in areas such as penetration testing, cryptography, cyber warfare, and governmental InfoSec policy.

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