Securing our future – Mikko Hyppönen

Mikko Hyppönen, F-Secure’s CRO and security celebrity who needs no introduction, highlights current and emerging concerns caused by ubiquity of the Internet.

Mikko Hyppönen I am Mikko Hyppönen, and I have spent my life analyzing viruses, tracking hackers, catching online criminals and trying to protect the security and privacy of the Net. Well, actually, I started analyzing viruses when they weren’t spreading over the Internet – when they were spreading on floppy disks, if you still remember floppy disks. But the Internet, of course, changed everything about our security and about our privacy, because now we do everything online. This has been a very quick change. The Internet isn’t that old. In fact, we are very lucky to be alive during this exciting time in mankind history where we all get connected.

'Inception of the ARPANET' sign

‘Inception of the ARPANET’ sign

I was thinking about the history of the Internet last month when I was visiting Stanford University in California. As I parked my car outside the Bill Gates building I saw this sign on the wall of the building. And that sign was put there to commemorate the birth of the Internet, because the Internet is built on top of protocols which were designed for ARPANET in Stanford University. The date on the sign was the end of October 1969. That’s when the protocols that were used to build the Internet were designed – 1969. And I thought that was very interesting, because I was born in 1969, in October 1969, in the middle of October, which means I’m older than the Internet. And I think 1969 was a great year, because we went to the Moon in 1969; we had the Woodstock Rock ‘N Roll Festival in 1969; we invented the Internet in 1969; and I was born, which was nice.

But the Internet, really, is changing everything around us. It is bringing massive changes. We are seeing artificial intelligence being developed, self-driving cars being developed, and we are seeing massive technological advances in things like robots. And I’m sure you’ve seen videos on YouTube about these robots that are being designed right now by companies all over the world. The thing that I really find weird about these videos of robots is that the engineers always demonstrate these robots by pushing them around, or maybe kicking the robots and showing how the robots are still able to continue motion without toppling over, even though they are being kicked around. And I think that kicking robots is a basic evolutionary mistake, because these robots are getting smarter and smarter. One day those robots will be watching videos on YouTube, and they will find these videos where we kicked their ancestors, and they will not like it. So kicking robots – basic evolutionary mistake. We shouldn’t do it.

The headline about robot killing a man

The headline about robot killing a man

And of course this is timely, because you might have seen in the news two days ago there was a tragic event in Germany, where a robot killed a man at the Volkswagen factory. It’s almost funny if it weren’t tragic, the robots killing people. Of course that robot, which by accident killed a man, was programmed by somebody. That robot is run by computers, it’s run by software. So, when we speak about computer security we no longer just speak about abstract problems with programs crashing or vulnerabilities on our systems. Our societies are being controlled by computers. Electricity is on in this room because of computers. We have running water because of computers. If the computers wouldn’t work, our societies wouldn’t get the power, the water, the food. None of that would work. So these things actually matter.

The two most important problems we have to solve are the problems of security and privacy. They seem to be similar problems, but they are actually quite different problems. Our security is mostly being threatened by online criminals, by organized criminal gangs who make millions with their attacks by targeting our computers and our smartphones and tablets. And they make their money with keyloggers that steal our credit card numbers as we do online shopping; with banking Trojans that steal money from our online bank accounts as we do online banking; and with ransom Trojans which lock up our systems and demand a payment in order to get their money. So, that’s crime in effect.

The only way I can pay is with my data and with my privacy.

But our privacy, our online privacy isn’t actually that much targeted by criminals. Our privacy is being threatened, first of all, by governments who use the Internet as means of surveillance and means of intelligence gathering. And second of all, our privacy is being threatened by companies. By companies which do nothing illegal as they break our privacy. Which companies might these be? Well, you know these companies. Companies like Google, or companies like Facebook, or companies like Twitter. You know all these companies, and their products are great. Google makes great products. I don’t actually use Facebook, but it obviously must be good, because it has two billion users. I love Twitter. I have over 100,000 followers on Twitter, I love the medium, it’s excellent. I just wish I could pay for these services. But there’s no way for me to pay for these services. I can’t pay for Google searches or for watching YouTube or using Twitter. The only way I can pay is with my data and with my privacy. And I urge all of you to go and check out these services for once not as a user, but as a customer. What that means is that you go to Twitter or Facebook or Google and you buy an ad, because that will open up your eyes.

One of Google's data centers

One of Google’s data centers

And it will also make you understand how companies like Google can make so much money. Google is right now investing, roughly, $2 billion every quarter into their data centers, 2 billion not per year but per quarter, just into the hardware costs of their data centers. 2 billion. In fact, Google is one of the largest manufacturers of computer servers on the planet, and they don’t even sell servers. They are such a large manufacturer because they build so many servers for their own use. So, if they invest so much money into their infrastructure, you would think that they would be going bankrupt because their products are free. But of course they are not going bankrupt. Google’s revenues last year were $66 billion, their profit was $14 billion. If we make a modest assumption that there’s 2 billion users of Google and we divide that 66 billion by 2, we end up with the figure that you made Google $33 of revenue last year. I made Google $33 of revenue, you made them $33, we all did. And I would rather pay them $33 in cash. In fact, I would rather pay them 50 or 100 bucks. Google would be worth hundreds of bucks a year to me if I could pay. But I can’t.

Read next: Securing our future 2: Legal infringement of privacy

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