Digitalisation has allowed the Finnish public administration to function smoothly despite the corona pandemic
The Digital and Population Data Services Agency has examined the impacts of the corona pandemic on the digital operations and security of public administration organisations. The study was conducted in May as a survey, in which 136 public administration organisations took part.
The purpose of the survey was to find out whether problems have been encountered in the changeover to remote work and in the carrying out of statutory tasks, whether the organisations’ information systems and e-services have been compatible with the provisions of the Emergency Powers Act and whether public administration organisations have been able to comply with all digital security requirements during the pandemic.
Public administration organisations have been able to operate more smoothly than expected
Based on the survey responses, the changeover to remote work and the associated technical solutions have worked well. The organisations have been able to safeguard the availability and security of statutory services even though there has been a substantial increase in the use of e-services. Few of the organisations participating in the survey have noticed any deterioration in the situation after the introduction of the special arrangements and many of them are actually in a better situation than before the pandemic. There has been full compatibility between information systems and the requirements of the Emergency Powers Act. “Our preliminary impression was that the spring months have passed without problems but some of the organisations have actually performed better than expected. However, there is no reason to be too satisfied because in a disruption like the corona crisis, cyber criminals are actively seeking new ways of carrying out attacks,” says Janne Viskari, Director General of the Digital and Population Data Services Agency, commenting on the results.
New threats facing the digital environment now under control
With the outbreak of the corona pandemic, public administration organisations have been forced to develop all areas of digital security. The following three major threats facing the digital operating environment and encountered by more than half of all survey participants were highlighted in the responses:
- disruptions to remote work connections (81% of the respondents)
- disruptions to telecommunications capacity (62%)
- new types of email scam message and attack (59%)
However, the organisations have also been able to react properly to the new threats and the risks arising from them have remained under control. For example, initially there were problems with remote connections, but the situation has improved since then. Thus, there have been few changes in the digital security of the organisations compared with the situation before the corona pandemic.
“The issues highlighted in our survey have also been extensively discussed in public and in this respect, we are not surprised by the findings. It can be noted with satisfaction that we are not aware of any successful cyberattacks against public administration conducted in a large scale,” says Kimmo Rousku, Chief Senior Specialist, who was in charge of the survey.
Organisations would like to have uniform instructions and networked operations
One of the purposes of the survey was to examine ways to improve digital security in public administration organisations. According to the responses, the organisations would like to have uniform instructions on remote work and on ensuring the security of new digital services, and procedures for sharing best experiences and for working together.
“The results of the survey show that the long-term work carried out in Finland to develop digital services and to ensure their security has made all this possible. However, there is no 100% security and for this reason, the organisations must continue systematic work to develop different sectors of security. We will use the five expert groups that are in the process of being set up as part of the VAHTI activities and networked operations to help in this,” adds Rousku who is the General Secretary of the Finnish Public Sector Digital Security Management Board (VAHTI). The Digital and Population Data Services Agency is responsible for VAHTI operations.
The results of the survey are discussed in more detail in the report Koronaviruspandemian vaikutukset digitaaliseen turvallisuuteen (in Finnish).
Janne Viskari, Director General, Digital and Population Data Services Agency, [email protected], tel. +358 295 535 022
Kimmo Rousku, Chief Senior Specialist and General Secretary of the VAHTI Board, Digital and Population Data Services Agency, [email protected], tel. +358 295 535 120