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Mirva Salminen by Marko Junttila_uutiskuva.jpg
Mirva Salminen. Photo: Marko Junttila

Doctoral dissertation: Acknowledging Humanness Improves Cybersecurity


In her doctoral dissertation, Assistant Professor Mirva Salminen critically examines digitalisation and cybersecurity as societal programmes. According to Salminen, securing the digitalised society requires that humanness is taken better into account in the development of information and communication technologies, digital applications and services, as well as in societal policies.

Digitalisation has turned information and communication technologies and telecommunications networks into critical infrastructures for society. Digitalisation is promoted because of its economic, societal and everyday opportunities, but the realisation of these opportunities depends on the securitisation of the digital world.

– Repeated news of cybersecurity incidents, cyber-attacks or breaches of personal data testify about a partial failure in securing the digital world, Salminen says.

According to Salminen, digitalisation and its securitisation are often advanced on the assumption that all citizens adopt digital services and acquire the necessary equipment and connections relatively easily. Citizens are also expected to have a sufficient level of digital literacy and skills to operate in the digital world without compromising their own, others' or the society's security. If such skills are lacking, advice, guidance and support are available.

– However, anchoring critical examination to the northernmost regions of Europe, and especially to the everyday experiences in Finnish Lapland, reveals that regional differences affect the digital world just like they shape thinking, speaking and acting in the physical world. Human-centric, everyday digital security is more refined than what is recognised by cybersecurity programmes that focus on protecting information and critical infrastructures or functions vital to society.

As a result, according to Salminen, conceptualisations, ways of thinking and speaking, procedures, institutions, and structures matter in the production of digitalisation and its securitisation.

The individual is seen as a vulnerability

In her doctoral dissertation, Salminen is particularly interested in how the individual is constructed as a subject and an object in different cybersecurity approaches and policies, how much freedom and responsibility for security is allocated to the individual, and how the individual is positioned in the networks of power relations in society.

For example, the role of the individual as a digitally competent citizen in Finland's comprehensive security model begins to take shape when viewing the general guidance given: Create strong passwords that are not the same in different services. Do not click on links in unexpected emails. Do not discuss work matters on social media. The individual is seen as a vulnerability and expected to behave in a certain way in the digital world in order to keep personal information or employer information confidential. Behaving in a different manner is possible, but brings about negative consequences, such as identity thefts, notices from the employer, or liability for damages.

Salminen carries out her examination in four articles that outline, among other things, what human-centric digital security could mean in the northernmost regions of Europe and the problems and challenges associated with everyday digital security in these regions.

For example, the digitalisation of services without considering the needs and wishes of their users or the importance of local knowledge does not, contrary to assumptions, increase the accessibility of services but increases uncertainty in everyday life. Chat bots do not recognise local road names, ask how you are doing or know why you should suddenly start paying a monthly fee for watching news in public broadcasting.

– The main argument of my study is that when we embed humanness better in the development of information and communication technologies, digital applications and services, and in societal policies, we get further in securing the digital society. Technology should serve the needs of people instead of policies try to turn people into technology-compatible citizens.

The articles of Salminen's dissertation were authored as part of the project “Enablement besides Constraints: Human Security and a Cyber Multi-disciplinary Framework in the European High North (ECoHuCy)” (2017–19). The project was led by the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law at the University of Lapland's Arctic Centre and funded by NordForsk in cooperation with the Economic and Social Research Council (UK). The project investigated digitalisation and cybersecurity from a human security perspective in the northernmost regions of Europe. The project partners included UiT - The Arctic University of Norway, Swansea University in the UK and The Institute for Security and Development Policy in Sweden.

Information on the public examination

The academic dissertation “Et nää on näitä meiän kyberhyökkäyksiä nämä" – The government of one and all in everyday digital security in Finnish Lapland by Mirva Salminen, will be publicly examined in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Lapland on Friday 20 May 2022 at 12 noon, in the Esko ja Asko hall. The opponent is Professor Ilpo Helén from the University of Eastern Finland and the custos is University Lecturer Tapio Nykänen from the University of Lapland.

The public examination can be followed online at

The language of the public defence is Finnish.

Information on the doctoral candidate

M.Soc.Sc. Mirva Salminen works as Assistant Professor in Societal Security at UiT – The Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø, as well as Project Specialist at Aalto University. Salminen has over ten years of experience in (cyber)security research from public, private and third sectors. She has co-authored or edited four books on the topic and published over twenty articles, book chapters or reports.

Further information

Mirva Salminen, mirva.salminen (at), +358 40 484 4037

Information on the publication

Mirva Salminen (2022) “Et nää on näitä meiän kyberhyökkäyksiä nämä" – The government of one and all in everyday digital security in Finnish Lapland. Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 339. ISBN: 978-952-337-314-3, ISSN: 1796-6310. University of Lapland, Rovaniemi 2022.

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