‘Don’t jump to conclusions’: Mikko Hyppönen on the Ashley Madison hack on Web Summit Centre Stage

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Mikko Hypponen knows online security. He’s been named as one of Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers and he spoke to the Web Summit Centre Stage audience this morning:

“I’ve spent almost the last 25 years hunting online criminals,” he told us.

Mikko’s talk touched on what motivates online criminals and the blindspots in current efforts to combat them:

“If we don’t understand where attacks are coming from we have no chance of defending them,” he said.

Mikko came to Web Summit with F-Secure – a startup that helps to protect to business and consumers from online attacks.

He spoke of a Romanian hacker whom F-Secure helped catch and talked about why he turned to online crime:

“Clearly he had some skills. Why did he choose a life of criminal endeavour?”

“He told me that it’s hard for him to get a 9-5 job. There’s no IT scene or startup scene in his hometown,” he said.

Mikko said that this case illustrates a “clear problem” regarding the prevalence of online crime”:

“Many of these problems are social problems.

“I can fix technical problems but I can’t fix social problems,” he said.

Mikko on Web Summit Centre Stage.

Mikko’s talk turned to the recent Ashley Madison hack where the personal details and email addresses of 36.5 million of the website’s users were leaked online:

“I met a lady whose details were released in the hacking – her email address and full name.

“Her colleagues and neighbours all learned about her being an Ashley Madison user. It was very, very embarrassing,” he said.

He continued however that this woman wasn’t on Ashley Madison to cheat:

“Quite the contrary, in fact,” he said.

She told Mikko that she suspected her husband of having an account and thus joined the site to search for his profile:

“She never found him yet her details were still leaked.

“The lesson here is that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions,” he said.

Mikko closed telling the Centre Stage audience that the “single story” he repeatedly hears from victims of online crime is that efforts to combat the issue are failing:

“We are failing to protect our online security and online privacy.

“Things are getting worse, not better. We have to start thinking about computer security in new ways,” he said.

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