Are Danish people better at cybersecurity?

Denmark is doing something right.

Danish people have less malware on their computers than any other country, according to research.

What can we learn from the Danes?

The answer may lie in a unique part of Danish culture that some other countries might consider insulting.

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Safer, Smarter?

Here in Denmark, computers may be a little bit safer.

Research from Comparitech shows Denmark has the lowest number of computer malware infections in the world.

About 6 percent of the country has a malware infection on their computers, compared to 10 percent for the U.S. and 32 percent for Algeria, the country with the highest number of infections.

Now we ask why — and what can the rest of us learn?

“I don’t think we’re smarter,” a Copenhagen resident told Archer News. “I just think that we know that we are not so lucky that we don’t just win, like, one million Euros suddenly out of the blue.”


People walk down a street in Copenhagen, Denmark. Image: Linus Schütz

Delete the Phish

One of the easiest ways for attackers to get malware onto your computer is through phishing.

Danish people may click less on suspicious links less than people in other parts of the world.

How do they know not to click?

Some say education and awareness.

Banks, businesses and government institutions put out warnings on cyber crime and young Danish people say the message comes through at home and at school.

“Like my mom, for example. She always, like, says, ‘Don’t open that,’ or, ‘Don’t try that. It could be dangerous.’ Or, ‘You could get hacked,’” said a Danish student to Archer News.

“In school, our teachers are always, like, ‘Yeah, don’t open that,’” added another Danish student. ‘We know a lot of stuff about it, yeah. We’re just aware.”

Nyhavn in Copenhagen, Denmark. Image: Leahenv

Special Email System

In addition, Denmark uses a special digital mail system called e-Boks for messages and documents from the government, banks, insurance companies and more.

“So, you know always that if you get an e-mail about a bank or tax or whatever in your private email, then it’s fake,” another Copenhagen resident told us.


A Denmark resident shows his e-Boks app on his phone. Image: Archer News

Attackers do target e-Boks, of course.

E-Boks sent out a warning about a phishing email in 2017 that said, “Important update in our database. Please confirm your identity,” and provided a link.

The message did not actually come from e-Boks and went to people’s private emails boxes, according to e-Boks posts on Facebook.

Phishing message targeting e-Boks users. Image: Facebook/Morten Tillquist Nielsen

Language Barrier

The language itself can make it harder for scammers to fool Danish people.

Google translate doesn’t always work well with Danish, according to some residents.

As you can see in this translation from a menu in Copenhagen, Google says the hamburger restaurant is serving up luxury ferrets.

Google translates words from a menu in Copenhagen. Image: Archer News

“If we get an email in Danish and it’s not grammatically correct, then you know it sounds so like it was just Google translated,” a resident said.

Danish Culture

But there is more.

We asked a Danish cybersecurity expert, Kåre Løvgren, chairperson of the Danish Society of Engineers IT group.

Danish children are taught to think critically at a young age instead of just automatically doing what a teacher or manager or CEO says, according to Løvgren.

“Think for yourself,” Løvgren said. “I think it’s a very big strength in things.”

For example, you get an e-mail at work that looks like it’s from someone high up in your company, telling you to make a very large payment.

In Denmark, it’s okay to challenge authority and it’s not considered an insult, Løvgren said.

“In some countries, if your boss tells you to do something, no questions, just go do,” he explained. “In Denmark, it’s quite the opposite. I mean, of course you do what the boss says. But if it’s stupid or doesn’t make sense, you’re very much welcome to ask your boss, ‘Hello, do you really mean to transfer this money to that one?’”

Long Way to Go

Danes may be more cyber-secure on a personal level, but not necessarily on a business or government level, Løvgren said.

Big game hunters can find a way in.

In August, someone attacked the website for Tivoli, the world-renowned Danish amusement park, stealing visitors’ personal information.

Tivoli amusement park in Copenhagen, Denmark. Image: Archer News

In September, cyber attackers hit Danish hearing aid maker Demant.

The company says it could lose 80 to 95 million dollars as a result.

Two years ago, an attack threw Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk into crisis, affecting operations world-wide and costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

A 2017 study by the International Telecommunication Union found that overall, Denmark ranked 34th on the list of countries with the highest “commitment to cybersecurity,” with Singapore at number one and the U.S. at number two.

“We still have a long way to go for being secure on a corporate and state level,” Løvgren said.

Demant in Denmark fell victim to a cyber attack in September. Image: Demant

It’s Personal

Business aside, it appears Denmark may have found cybersafety success by asking questions, rather than simply following instructions in emails that land in their inbox.

“Maybe just because we don’t really trust many things,” explained a Danish native. “That might be it actually.”

You’ll notice we did not record or use the names of the Danish people we interviewed on the street, so as not to disturb the Danish sense of mistrust.

“You respect your boss and respect your parents,” Løvgren said. “But you don’t do it automatically. You need to believe in it.”


Main image: Woman with bike and phone on road in Denmark. Image: iStock/Mikkel William

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