On Safer Internet Day, F-Secure’s Mikko Hypponen asks whether we’ve created a monster. He shares practical things we can all do to create a better Internet together.
Helsinki, Finland – February 10, 2015: It’s Safer Internet Day, but with malware attacks and privacy infringements constantly in the news, often it feels like the Internet is less safe than ever. This Safer Internet Day, F-Secure’s Mikko Hypponen, Chief Research Officer, reviews the state of the Internet and shares ideas on how we can create a better Internet together.
In a recent F-Secure survey,* 46% of people say they trust the Internet somewhat when it comes to their security and privacy, while they take security precautions. 39% don’t trust the Internet much, and 11% don’t trust it at all. Only 4% said they trust the Internet and don’t worry much about security and privacy. And it’s no wonder – F-Secure receives on average over 250,000 desktop malware samples per day (mostly Windows), and 9,000 Android samples per day. This malware attempts to steal our money, our content, and our data.
While the Internet has revolutionized the world in so many positive ways, „sometimes it really does feel like we’ve created a monster,” says Hypponen. Every innovation has its dark side. Here are a few more of his examples:
Open source as a solution to security woes? Maybe…maybe not. Open source software is often touted as more secure because with the source code open for anyone to view, in theory it’s exposed it to a wider degree of scrutiny. But Hypponen points out that two of 2014’s biggest security scares – Heartbleed and Shellshock – were both major vulnerabilities found in open source systems that had existed far too long without anyone noticing.
Digital currencies saving the financial system? Digital payment systems like Bitcoin based on cryptography could solve fundamental problems with our monetary systems. But they’ve also inspired new problems – hackers create malware especially to exploit the Bitcoin system. And the race to supercomputing power for Bitcoin mining has resulted in multimillion-dollar data center operations that havecrashed and burned (one even literally) as Bitcoin value has decreased.
Internet of things. A world where everyday devices – toasters, washing machines, cars – are interconnected will create amazing opportunities. But „a smart device just means an exploitable device” says Hypponen. Already, malware has been discovered that turned smart security cameras into Bitcoin-mining devices. Not to mention the potential for privacy infringements with smart devices that use technologies like voice or face recognition.
„Free” Internet services. Just because you’re not paying money for a service doesn’t mean it’s free, points out Hypponen. You always have to give up something – and if not money it’s your personal data. Unless you take time to read the terms and conditions, which most people never do, you never really know how these services are using your data.
The surveillance state. Governments have become one of the main sources of new malware. They can watch other governments, and they can watch their own citizens too. „By building the Internet we’ve built the perfect tool for the surveillance state,” says Hypponen. Hostile governments can monitor what we do, where we are, who we communicate with, what we think.
„We have lived through the great revolution of the Internet,” Hypponen says. „But if we don’t take care of the problems we are seeing right now, we might not have a free and open Internet left to give to our children.”
What can we all do?
Given that the theme of Safer Internet Day is „Let’s create a better Internet together,” what can the average citizen do to take action? Hypponen suggests a few simple ways people can make an impact:
- Ask questions. When buying a new device, ask questions in the shop. Is it online? Why? Does it collect information from me and what kind? Demand answers. Make it known to device manufacturers and retailers that people care about preserving their privacy.
- Keep the big guys from knowing too much. If you stay logged in to Google and Facebook while you’re browsing, those services can track you around the web. If you think those Internet giants already know enough about you, use a separate browser just for those services, and don’t log in to them with the main browser you use.
- Demand better TOC’s and EULA’s. Terms and Conditions or End User License Agreements are notoriously long and filled with jargon the average person can’t understand. Demand ones that anyone can understand without having to have a law degree or a few spare hours of time.
- Use the power of the cloud. Consider using Internet security solutions that protect the user with cloud-based security. With the cloud, the user base is like a herd: if one member of the herd gets a disease, the whole herd is vaccinated against that disease. Cloud-based security is sharing information together that protects us all.
- Ask for transparency. Demand that your AV security vendors are transparent about how they protect you. Ask for a description about what kind of data they collect from you and your computer. Be aware that there’s only one security vendor in the world who has made public how they collect from you.
More of Mikko’s interview at Safe & Savvy
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