Helsinki police admit that they have lost some of their criminal reports due to a large-scale patient data breach at the psychotherapy center and have not tried to contact the victims to tell them about the error.
According to the authorities, the reports disappeared when they were transferred from the spreadsheet to the police system.
The hacking of the customer database of the privately owned psychotherapy center Vastamo was first revealed on October 21, 2020, when the patient data of tens of thousands of people were stolen and used to blackmail both the company and the patients.
Investigating authorities asked every victim to report a crime, and by February 2021, more than 25,000 such reports had been made. Most reports were made to Pasila Police Station in Helsinki, but some elsewhere in the country.
The high number of reports caused congestion in police systems, and it took nearly a year for police to ask victims to fill out a statement online because they did not have the resources to interview each patient individually. The statement form was available to all whistleblowers.
However, due to a file error in the Excel spreadsheet, some criminal reports were not completed and could not be received by the police system.
"I discovered by chance that the statement form can be filled out online. But when I logged in to the police online service, it turned out that I did not have access to the form" one former Vastamo customer who wanted to remain anonymous told Svenska Yle.
He had filed a criminal report at Pasila Police Station at the end of October 2020.
"For several days I tried in vain to find someone who could help me, I went to the Pasila police station again," he said.
By then, it was mid-January 2022, about 14 or 15 months after he had filed his first criminal report. He had not heard from the police and had not received any instructions from the police since then.
The existence of the statement form had not been widely disclosed by the police.
The staff of the Pasila police station searched the woman’s criminal report from the police system, but she was to receive a nasty surprise instead.
"They did not find a criminal report in my name. Therefore, they filed a new criminal report. In addition, I received the name and contact details of the person in charge of the preliminary investigation. I emailed him" he explained.
At the Pasila police station, no one understood what had gone wrong, but the police who led the preliminary investigation were able to uncover what had happened.
"He said not all reports were recorded directly in the police information system because thousands had been made in a short time." he said.
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Instead of a database, crime reports were stored in Microsoft Excel files. Some of the files turned out to be unreadable as police tried to transfer them to an official system. The cause of the problem is unknown.
Detective inspector Jari Illukka Svenska Yle told the Helsinki Police Department that about a dozen criminal reports have disappeared from Excel, but the exact number is not known.
Police did not consider it necessary to report the crime, Illukka said.
"No one’s legal rights have been threatened, because at this stage of the investigation, people have to fill in an electronic statement form anyway. It is essential if you are to continue to make progress," he said.
The form must be completed if victims wish to obtain compensation in a possible future lawsuit. No form, no refund.
This means that from the point of view of the police, all the errors will come to light at some point.
So you think this is good enough, Svenska Yle asked.
"Yeah," Illukka replied.
One third of the victims filled out the form
Police estimate that more than 30,000 people were stolen in connection with Vastamo’s data breach, of which more than 22,000 victims have since reported the crime.
By the end of January, however, just over three thousand reporting forms had been submitted to the police, one in ten victims.
This suggests that some of those whose criminal reports were not recorded due to an Excel error may not have been notified of the disappearance of the criminal reports.
Marko LeponenThe director in charge of the investigation on behalf of the Central Criminal Police admitted to Yle that the 3,000 statements from the 30,000 victims were very small, but wondered if this could be due to the victims ’lack of awareness. send the statement through the online portal.
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The form can still be sent, even though police said the deadline was originally January 31st.
"It was a little misleading to say it was the last day to fill out the form. It was about how much resources we spend tracking forms. If it turns out that the number of forms is increasing, we can re-review the process," Leponen said.
Many have “lost hope”
Victim Support Finland (RIKU) has helped many victims of Vastamo’s hacking, and the regional director Elina Viitasaari told Yle that he apologized for the apparent disappearance of criminal reports.
"Of course it is unfortunate. I cannot take a strong stand on the police, but the number of victims was so great that it has certainly been a challenge for the information system," Viitasaari said.
He called on people in need contact Victim support Finland, and also said that it hoped that as many victims as possible would fill in the online report form. However, he also understands why many people are tired of the whole case.
"I think some have made a statement, but they have lost hope of compensation. We still recommend filing and filing a criminal report [statement] form," he said.
Viitasaari added that co-operation between the police and other services has worked well during the pre-trial investigation.
“How is it possible?”
The woman interviewed by Svenska Yle said she was disappointed with the police and was shocked that she had almost been left out of the process.
In October 2020, he received a paper from a police station that was supposed to be a copy of his crime report. When looked at more closely in January this year, few data were accurate. For example, his name was misspelled.
"I do not understand how it is possible that I have received a copy of a criminal report that does not exist and the registration number of the report, which also does not appear to exist and which is also in the wrong format. Of course, I assumed that the copy meant that the report was already registered," he said.
"I also don’t understand why they do [the police] have not informed us of this. It would have been logical to let people know at least when they opened access to the statement form. They could have said that if your form is not found, you will need to contact the police and file a new criminal report, as it may be that the first report was never recorded." he added.
Loss of a criminal report is rare
Crime inspector Illukka told Yle that the disappearance of criminal reports is rare. However, the case of the counter office is exceptional, as thousands of people came to the police station to make reports. Most crime reports today are made online.
"Crime reports don’t usually go away, as much of it is done online. Crime reports issued at the station are usually entered directly into the system," he said, adding that the police are learning from what happened and are currently developing their work processes.
According to him, the goal of the police is to be able to record even large reports in a short time.
Source: The Nordic Page