NEWS FROM THE LAB - Friday, September 16, 2011

What We Need Posted by Mikko @ 10:39 GMT

I love the Internet.

Think about everything it has brought us. Think about all the services we use, all the connectivity, all the entertainment, all the business, all the commerce.

And all these changes are happening right now. They are happening during our lifetimes.

I'm pretty sure that when they will be writing history books hundreds of years from now, our generation will be remembered as the generation that got online. We will be remembered as the generation that built something really and truly global.

But the Internet has problems too. It has very serious problems with security and privacy. I know, as I've spent my career fighting these problems.

So where are all the problems coming from? The biggest single source of problems are the organized criminal gangs. They distribute malware and hack websites, because they make money with their attacks. Many of them make millions.

There's multiple different ways to make money by infecting computers. For example, banking trojans, which will steal money from your online banking accounts when you do online banking. Another option is keyloggers. Keyloggers silently sit on your computer and they record everything you type. So when you do online purchases in online stores and type in your name and credit card details, they will be stolen by the criminals.

The amount of money online crime generates is significant and that means that the online criminals can actually afford to invest in their attacks. And they also use the global nature of Internet to their advantage. Now the criminals who weren't capable of reaching us before can reach us.

In most cases the criminals are never caught. In the vast majority of the online crime cases we don't even know which continent the attacks were coming from. Even if we are able to find online criminals quite often there is no outcome. The local police doesn't act or if they do, there's not enough evidence or for some reason we can't take them down. I wish it would be easier. Unfortunately it isn't.

As I said, I love the Internet, I do. Think about all the services we have online. Think about if they are taken away from you, if one day you don't actually have them.

I see beauty in the future of the Internet but I'm worried that we might not get to see that.

I'm worried that we are running into problems because of online crime. Online crime is the one thing that might take these things away from us.

I've spent my life defending the net and I do feel that if we don't fight online crime, we are running a risk of losing it all. We have to fight online crime globally, and we have to do it right now.

What we need is more global international law enforcement work to find online criminal gangs; these organized gangs that are making millions out of their attacks. We can run all the antiviruses and all the firewalls in the world and that wouldn't make a difference. Catching the criminals would.

Even more importantly, we have to find the people who are about to become part of this online world of crime, but haven't yet done it. We have to find the people with the skills but without the opportunities, and give them the opportunities to use their skills for good.

Mikko Hypponen

Excerpt from my TED Talk, transcription by Diane Wiegand for American Rhetoric.