Q&A: F-Secure chief research officer, Mikko Hypponen

The enemies of information security come in different forms so it’s important to understand the different types and what motivates them, according to F-Secure chief research officer, Mikko Hypponen.

Hypponen, who has worked at F-Secure in Finland since 1991, named the infamous Storm Worm.

He shared his thoughts with Computerworld Australia on cyber criminals, hacktivists and nation state attacks ahead of his visit to Australia for the AusCERT security conference.

What are the different motives of criminals, hacktivists and nation states?

Criminals are after money, but hacktivists are not [as] they want to protest or to send a political message.

Nation states want to spy on other countries, launch cyber sabotage attacks or use technology against their own people.

What makes these three groups tick?

Criminals are easy to understand. If one can become a millionaire by writing malware, somebody will do it.

Attacks by nation states are easy to understand as well. Launching the Stuxnet worm to delay the Iranian nuclear program was much cheaper than any of the alternative forms of espionage.

Hacktivists might be the hardest group to understand, especially when they are not protesting but just doing their attacks for the lulz [laughs].

Where are criminals, hacktivists and nation state groups going in the future?

Hacktivist group Anonymous is in flux right now. The movement might split into splinter groups.

Criminals are here to stay but nation state attacks are only beginning. We haven't seen anything yet.

Who's in charge of fighting these problems?

For criminals, it's easy; it's the police. Police will find the criminals and put them into jail, problem solved.

It’s the same thing with hacktivists because clearly they are breaking the law--although I would love to see the law enforcement focus on tracking Russian and Ukrainian organised cyber-criminal gangs rather than the 15-year-olds who do distributed denial of service [DDoS] on websites to defend WikiLeaks. Both are breaking the law but it's easy to see which one is the bigger problem.

But who's in charge of fighting attacks by nation states against other nation states?

It's definitely not the police. Police have nothing to do with attacks where countries are fighting each other.

When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, did the Poles call the cops? No they didn't.

Which leaves a question hanging in the air: If it's not the police, who is it then? We don't have a good answer to that question yet.

Hypponen is scheduled to present at AusCERT in May.

IDG Communications is an official media partner for AusCERT 2012.

Got a security tip-off? Contact Hamish Barwick at hamish_barwick at idg.com.au

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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