Patients blackmailed after data breach at Finnish private psychotherapy center

9. November 2020

An unknown party breached Vastaamo, a Finnish private psychotherapy center. They accessed the electronic patient record, gathering thousands of confidential patient records.  According to a message left on a Finnish web-forum, they accessed up to 40 000 confidential records of psychotherapy patients. These include not only confidential information regarding therapy sessions but also personal information, such as the social security number. In Finland, this number allows the user to take on credits or found companies. On September 29th Vastaamo notified the Finnish authorities, while they notified the affected via E-Mail and letter after October 21st.

Though the attack prompted an emergency meeting of the Finnish Cabinet, up until now neither Finnish authorities nor Vastaamo released information, regarding the nature of the breach.

The initial breach likely occurred in November 2018, while it is believed, there was a second attack that occurred before March 2019. In September 2020, the hackers contacted Vastaamo, demanding a payment of 40 Bitcoin (€ 450 000,00). Vastaamo refused to pay and instead contacted the police and other Finnish authorities. On instruction by the Finnish National Police, Vastaamo published information regarding the data breach, only after some of the data was published on the Tor Network on October 21st. Furthermore, the Board dismissed former CEO Ville Tapio, claiming he concealed the breach.

Also, in late October, the hackers sent messages to patients and employees of Vastaamo, threatening to post their patient files on the internet and demanding payments in Bitcoin. The national police advise victims from paying the hacker but instead ask them to save extortion emails or other evidence and file a police report. Until October 30th, Finland’s national police received up to 15 000 reports of offenses regarding this data-breach.

The National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health started an investigation of Vastaamo, while the Social Insurance Institution of Finland stopped referrals to Vastaamo.

Ever since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic the healthcare and the public health sectors are attacked more recently, especially in the form of ransomware  The FBI’s Cyber Security Unit (CISA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services have issued a joint advisory regarding the matter. Adding to that, according to IBM’s annual Cost of a Data Breach Report, the healthcare sector has the highest average breach cost, at 7.13 million per breach.