Front Page: NCSC-FI
Front Page: NCSC-FI

Information security now!

Traficom awarded the 2024 Information Security Trailblazer award to the parties who have taken part in planning and implementing measures for preventing international scam calls and messages in Finland. As a result of this cooperation, scam calls from spoofed Finnish phone numbers have all but stopped. With scam calls and messages being a global problem, the Finnish know-how and pioneering measures implemented to tackle the problem are also garnering international interest.

Tietoturvan suunnannäyttäjä -tunnustuspalkinnon saajat 2024
The Information Security Trailblazer awards were handed out by Mr. Jarkko Saarimäki, Director-General at the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom, and Mr. Anssi Kärkkäinen Deputy Director-General at National Cyber Security Centre, Traficom. The awards were received by: Ari Lahti, , The National Bureau of Investigation, Klaus Nieminen and Lauri Isotalo Traficom, Bror Svarfvar, Länsilinkki Oy, Kim Lindqvist, Setera Communications Oy, Jyrki Martikainen, Suomen Numerot NUMPAC Oy, Antti Turunen, Telia Finland Oyj, Ilkka Tuominen, DNA Oyj and Lauri Rämö, Elisa Oyj

The 2024 Information Security Trailblazer award recognised the cooperation carried out by Finnish telecommunications operators and public authorities in preventing international scam calls and messages. The recognition was awarded to DNA Oyj, Elisa Oyj, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom, Länsilinkki Oy, Setera Communications Oy, Suomen Numerot NUMPAC Oy, Telia Finland Oyj and Ålands Telekommunikation Ab. The award was given out at the Tietoturva 24 information security seminar organised by Traficom and the National Emergency Supply Agency in Helsinki on 13 March 2024.

Scam calls targeting Finnish mobile phones have been common in recent years and caused considerable financial losses: for example, in 2020 and 2021, Finnish people lost approximately EUR 7.1 million to technical support scam calls.

Finnish authorities and telecommunications operators have been engaging in cooperation to tackle this complex problem since 2021. This cooperation led to the implementation of prevention measures in summer 2022, which reduced the numbers of scam calls dramatically and decreased the resulting criminal proceeds to under EUR 600 during the second half of 2022. The pioneering prevention measures have garnered a great deal of interest from many EU countries as well.

“Your cooperation is an excellent example of information security trailblazing that affects the everyday lives of all mobile phone users,” says Director-General of Traficom Jarkko Saarimäki. “The solutions implemented in Finland have also garnered a great deal of interest among your colleagues in different parts of Europe, who are eager to hear and learn about the work that you have done in the areas of telecommunications operations, software solutions and regulation.”

“Finnish telecommunications operators are constantly striving to ensure the security of Finnish communications services. As a result of these measures, online criminals can no longer carry out scams based on spoofing Finnish phone numbers. This would not have been possible without our exceptional national strength – the smooth cooperation and mutual trust between companies and public authorities,” emphasises the Managing Director of the Finnish Federation for Communications and Teleinformatics FiCom Elina Ussa.

The solution is based on three pillars: a technical solution, the implementation of regulation and filtering by all Finnish telecommunications operators, and active monitoring and development.

Technical solution

The technical solution is based on the ability of telecommunications operators to receive all of their clients’ traffic originating from abroad in a controlled manner. This makes it possible to block other traffic originating from abroad using Finnish numbers. The filtering procedure itself is simple, but the main challenge is how to identify and let through calls that Finnish people visiting other countries make to Finland. For this, telecommunications operators must exchange information with each other on whether a specific mobile phone subscription is currently abroad or not.

The solution is a secure verification service defined and provided by Numpac, which respects users’ privacy. With it, the spoofing of Finnish mobile phone numbers was also stopped on 2 October 2023. The model has proven indispensable, helping prevent as many as over 200,000 attempted scam calls a day. Although criminals have of course noticed the preventive measures, the service still prevents approximately half a million scam calls a month.

Similar preventive measures have also been implemented for text messages. In addition to this, Traficom has started the registration of protected SMS Sender IDs. This service allows parties sending out text messages to Finnish citizens to make sure that no one else can use the same SMS Sender ID. Telecommunications operators implement the protection three months after the registration of the SMS Sender ID.

Implementation of regulation and filtering in the networks of all Finnish telecommunications operators

The justification for traffic filtering was established with a regulation issued by Traficom, which also ensured that all telecommunications operators would implement the necessary preventive measures. This was paramount, because if even only one operator were to not implement the filters, criminals would still have an avenue for carrying out scams.

Continuous cooperation

The sharing of information and best practices has been and continues to be a critical success factor. For example, the National Bureau of Investigation has contributed significantly by concretising the severity of the problem and identifying attack methods. This information has been vital for planning countermeasures. The fact that criminals never rest and are constantly trying to come up with new ways of scamming people means that the need for continuous cooperation and exchange of information remains high.

Media inquiries

Available to representatives of the media Mon–Fri 8.00–16.15 at +358 (0) 29 534 5648.
Outside office hours (only urgent matters): tel. +358 (0) 29 534 5648 (Mon–Fri 16.15–23.00, Sat–Sun 8.00–23.00).