On Meeting the Prime Minister…and Online Security

A few weeks ago my husband, son and I were strolling through our local shopping mall when we happened to see the prime minister of our country of residence. He was standing in the common area shaking hands and posing for photos with passersby.

We stopped and I took a photo of my husband and son with him. That done, we proceeded along to the supermarket to do our Saturday grocery shopping.

Some minutes later it hit me. We had just met the prime minister, the most powerful man in Finland. I should have shaken his hand. And why hadn’t I gotten in the photo too? The significance of meeting this dignitary had been completely lost on me!

Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen campaigning

The thing was, it was so low key. There was no big fuss about it. People were mostly going about their business. There was no heavy security detail, no men in black suits and sunglasses. And the prime minister himself, Jyrki Katainen, had looked so ordinary. Casually dressed, he could have been any other shopper that day.

But he wasn’t any other shopper. He was the head of the Republic of Finland, out campaigning for his party (municipal elections were the following day).

It was a completely different experience from the other time I saw a head of government. In 1996 President Clinton came through my hometown on his re-election campaign. I remember the excitement. Thousands of people stood thronged around the stage. It took quite a while for my cousins and I to weave our way to the front of the crowd, where a rope separated the mass of people from the president. My cousin, who was bolder than I, stretched out far enough to shake his hand. And you can bet there was security.

The laid-back encounter with Prime Minister Katainen got me thinking about security in the real world versus the online world. In the real world, the need for security varies depending on the population, economics, social problems, et cetera, of where you are. It’s apparently pretty easy for Katainen to get around in this quiet northern country of 5.4 million people. But in many countries with higher populations and less egalitarianism than Finland, top government officials must travel with an elaborate entourage.

In the online world however, threats are not bound by geography. Hackers use the information superhighway to get them anywhere in the world they want to go, in milliseconds. They can, for example, steal personal data, spread viruses, infiltrate bank accounts, and turn computers into robots that do their bidding, all from the comfort of their own home. So hackers in Wherever-ia aren’t just that country’s problem – they’re everyone’s problem.

Comprehensive Internet security is a must, whether you’re in a small, relatively safe country like Finland, a populous nation like the USA, or whether you use a Mac or a PC. And wherever, whoever you are, there’s protection for you.

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F-Secure employee wins Inventor of the Year

20 Patents in 14 Years: How An Award-Winning Inventor Finds His Groove

We wouldn't be F-Secure without the talented and passionate researchers in our Labs. And today we'd like you to meet one whose inquisitive nature has driven him to become an inventor - and a prolific one at that. In his 14-year career with F-Secure, Jarno Niemelä has racked up an impressive 20 patents to his name and has filed 100 patent applications in total. His achievements recently won the title of "Salaried Inventor of 2014" from a group of Finnish inventors' organizations. I sat down to chat with Jarno about where he gets his ideas, and his advice for others. What area do your inventions focus on? I mostly focus on methods to help detect malware on a system, or methods of preventing malware from entering the system in the first place. How do your ideas come about? Inventions mostly happen in the evening when I'm not at work, and not even trying to think about it. I'll be working on some problem at work, and usually a day or two later, when I'm doing something totally unrelated on my own time, it hits me. I understand the problem and come up with a solution. The gym is a really good place for inventions. What motivates you to keep on inventing new solutions?   Inventions just happen, pretty much. Whenever I'm able to define a problem, I'm usually always able to come up with a solution. I am lucky to be researching in areas with problems that others have not yet solved. I'll be honest, I don't really like patents that much personally. The fact is though, that companies without patents would pretty much be at the mercy of the competitors. So in my view, patents are basically company self defense. Patents keep things in balance. Were you curious about things growing up? I've always kind of been inventive. You cannot learn to become an inventor, it's either something that's in your nature or it's not. And then you need to hone the talent and learn how to work within the patent framework. Another thing that is very important is good basic education and knowledge about the field. I owe a lot to Metropolia University of Applied Sciences where I studied for my engineering degree. Do you have any advice for people who have this inventive nature and are interested in filing patents? It all starts from defining and understanding the problem. Without a thorough understanding of the problem, you can't come up with a solution. Also, when it comes to patents, it's important to know what has previously been done in your area, and be clear in exactly how your invention is different from those. Otherwise your patent can be easily rejected by the patent examiner. And finally, patents are a long process so you need patience. It can take three to five years to get a patent approved. So this is not for hasty people. What is that rock you're holding? It's my trophy, a piece of Finnish bedrock! Inventors are the bedrock of new products. Do you have any certain goals for your inventions? Before I retire I would like to have at least 50 patents to my name. - Well, he's off to a great start. Congratulations, Jarno! Follow Jarno on Twitter  

Nov 12, 2014
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Free public wi-fi Coffee Shop

Should you use a VPN?

The EFF has put together a handy guide on choosing the right VPN -- virtual private network -- that explains in simple terms why you'd want to use this type of software.   "It enables a computer to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if it is directly connected to the private network—benefiting from the functionality, security, and management policies of the private network," the guide explains. It goes on to clarify the three reasons people typically encrypt their data. Most people already using a VPN do so for the two reasons: They connect to a corporate network remotely or are attempting avoid Internet censorship in countries like China and Iran. But even if you're not using a VPN for business or digital freedom, there is a simple reason why you'd want to use a VPN. "You can also use a commercial VPN to encrypt your data as it travels over a public network, such as the Wi-Fi in an Internet café or a hotel," the EFF writes. I put together this flow chart that explains whether you're a candidate for this third reason to use a VPN: “A good number of open wi-fi providers take the time to tell you in their T&C that there are inherent risks with wireless communications and suggest using a VPN,” F-Secure Security Advisor Sean Sullivan said after we conducted a public Wi-Fi experiment. “So if you don’t take it from me, take it from them.” And even if you aren't on a public network, you may want a VPN to protect you from ubiquitous tracking elements like a perma-cookie. You can try our super simple Freedome VPN solution -- which also includes tracking protection and the ability to set up virtual locations -- free. [Image via Trevor Cummings | Flickr]

Nov 10, 2014
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