Ari Hakala’s group developed a service that just a while ago would have been illegal—now recognised as the best project in Europe
In his hands, Ari Hakala is holding a shining trophy that millions of Finns can be happy about. Hakala’s group developed the smoothest way in Europe to add strong digital authentication to online services. Yet, legislation had to change and the banks had to lose a furious war.
The journey from an offbeat thought to the award ceremony at the largest identity event in Europe, arranged last week in Munich, took three years.
“I have been working on these development jobs for decades, but this has truly been one of the most peculiar ones. When Joni Rapanen came up with the thought back in the day, all of us in the group rejected his idea, saying it is against conventions and the law,” Ari Hakala recalls.
After this, however, Hakala has been frequenting the parliament, convincing legislators that a bad law ought to be changed. Perseverance was rewarded, as the new act on strong authentication was adopted, after which Telia rushed to be the market leader in intermediary services using its own solution.
The banks were fiercely fighting the new law, seeing as the bulk of online authentication had been done with their credentials, and the banks were used to pricing the authentication transactions dearly. Businesses have had to pay up to €0.9 to the banks for each authentication transaction, which is why the use of strong authentication in Finland has been exceptionally low.
The new law, however, enabled a service where Telia, for example, could purchase authentication transactions from banks at a regulated, considerably more moderate price, and bundle them for its customers as a single, easily deployed entity. According to Hakala, the new law has lowered the price of authentication transactions by more than 90% of the original.
Damn it, mother, password
“Compared to the present level, the need for strong digital authentication will grow tenfold in the coming years. Businesses deem it important to easily obtain the whole service from a single source,” Hakala says.
He reminds that we humans are often the weakest link in the digital chain. The ages-old 123456, mother, damnit and password still persist among the most popular passwords. However, they will not suffice when one is dealing with health information, tax details or other confidential matters.
Many large companies and organisations have opted to use Telia as the proxy for authentication data. For example, the Population Register Centre uses the company’s service when routing Finns to the public services of the police, KELA or the tax authority.
Telia is striving to be a market leader in Finland. In the meantime, Hakala has his eyes set further: businesses need to operate in the Nordic Countries, Europe and worldwide.
“This recognition means that a new service layer has been permanently established, gradually spreading everywhere. There is no longer a return to the old world where authentication services were sold individually,” Hakala emphasises.
Hakala says that a variety of technical solutions will continue to be employed for strong authentication. Yet, in the horizon one can see a world that requires global solutions, which is a reason why Telia has already connected strong authentication methods of other countries to its service.
“We have been developing the global Mobile Connect authentication service operated by mobile carriers. As we speak, we can test authenticating in a Thailand service using the mobile ID. Without doubt, Finland is a pioneer in the digital world and authentication, and this recognition is an excellent proof of that,” Hakala concludes.
Text: Janne Kaijärvi
Photo: Otto Uotila