It’s 1941, the allied code-crackers huddle together in a dimly-lit room poring over reams of intercepted Nazi communications. Outside the war rages on. Day after day they search for patterns and clues, piecing together fragments of code, but the Enigma encryption is a seemingly impossible task. Until one day, they finally break through. The Allies gain a critical advantage that will enable them to outmanoeuver their enemy and shorten the war, saving millions of lives.
Harri Eränen has always been drawn to history, and during his own military service in the late 90s, stories of the Enigma codebreakers really stuck to him, sparking an enduring interest in cryptography. He’d already studied programming, and, inspired by these WW2 heroes, started honing his own skills as a behind the scenes code-cracker. When the malware attacks of the 2000s came, Harri was up for the challenge, learning to write code and create tools to counter those big Internet growth pains. Now, in the face of today’s ever-evolving cybersecurity threats, Harri continues behind the scenes, helping his cloud customers become the heroes of their own secure systems.
IT experience across the board
Backed by a Masters of Computer Science in software security testing, cybersecurity remains Harri’s top specialist area. However his twenty-year IT career has spanned multiple roles, including project manager, service manager, software developer, solutions architect and test automation engineer, to name a few.
“Almost all of the roles you can have in a software project, I’ve tried,” Harri says. “And across a range of business areas in telecoms, web publications and other cloud-centric projects, as well as a short stint in robotics and some AI work.”
“I always knew computers were my path.”
When Harri was five, his mother, a librarian, and his father, a school teacher and author, were trying to get him into books, but this was the 80s and all Harri wanted was a computer. Saturday mornings brought the Transformers, a TV animation series featuring giant warring robots, but Harri’s favorite character was a talking computer, who always knew the answers to every question.
Back then, Harri had a lot of questions of his own, big existential questions like Who is God? And is Santa Claus real? So when the news comes that his older cousin was getting a computer, a new Commodore 16, Harri couldn’t wait the get over there.
“It’s embarrassing to think back, but I’d made a written list of questions that I really thought the computer would answer,” Harri recalls. The big disappointment came when he discovered the computer couldn’t even talk. “But it was okay, because instead my cousin showed me how to play space invaders, and then I was hooked.” Harri soon got a computer of his own and by aged nine, he was making his own games.
“I love to be alone with a book or out for a run.”
Ironically it was through the computer that Harri finally discovered books. He’d got hooked on a computer game that involved storytelling, and couldn’t stop playing it. Harri laughs. “I told my cousin that I thought the stories in the game were really well written. And my cousin said, ‘Hey you should try books, they’re also well-written!’” And suddenly Harri was into books. But not e-books as you might expect from one destined for a life with computers – real physical books. Today, Harri’s office and self-described mancave is lined, floor to ceiling, with books, not just about cryptography. It includes every book he’s ever read, and that’s a lot, with more coming. Harry spends weekends combing second-hand bookstores for books that he wants to read, especially history and cryptography, but also books for their aesthetics that he likes to look at.
When he’s not spending time with his partner and her cat, introvert Harri has other solitary hobbies. A former competitive track athlete turned long-distance runner, Harri loves to run. Before switching to remote working he used to jog 4km to work and back. He has also taken up shooting and become a summer biathlete, combining shooting and running.
With all this alone time, Harry might sound too solitary to enjoy working in a team. But he says it’s the opposite. Clients often tell him he’s a good team player. “That’s because in software development, we work happily alongside each other, all introverts together.”
Security then and now
Harri’s fascination with crypt-cracking and creating secure systems is now also playing to the advantage of Nordhero’s customers, as he continues to work on new techniques to better understand where vulnerabilities in systems lie and how to counter them. Of course, the threat landscape has evolved since the days of the Enigma, but the need for strong encryption and security is just as critical for today’s digital age. And continuing that legacy of Enigma code breakers, Harri is the perfect person to tackle the challenge.