It's your job to secure anything that uses electricity

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Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer, F-Secure. Photo by Devin Armstrong.
Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer, F-Secure. Photo by Devin Armstrong.

Take yourself back to the early 1990s and reflect on how profound the Internet revolution we have all lived through has been.

This is how Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer, F-Secure, opened his keynote at the ITWeb Security Summit at Vodacom World in Midrand this morning.

"Our work itself wasn't that different. But there is one big difference. In 1991, the PCs and Macs we had weren't online. They were not only not connected to the Internet, they were not even connected to each other."

He said back in the '90s, his organisation didn't even have a local area network, meaning that when a user was working on something on one computer, they used a thumb drive to transfer the information to another machine. "Today, all computers are online. It's hard to find one that isn't."

Devices talking to the manufacturers

According to Hypponen, what is happening now is that we are in the middle of the next phase.

"Now everything else is going online. If it uses electricity, it will be online."

And this is happening to benefit the manufacturers, not the users, he says.

"Manufacturers have been told that data is the new oil, so they need to think about how to collect that data. If they put their toasters online, for example, they will know where their customers are, how often we have failures, and suchlike."

However, they can't do it yet, he says, as Internet of Things (IoT) chipsets are still too expensive.

"But everything is becoming cheaper, and soon, we won't even know that our devices are talking to the manufacturers."

New defence systems needed

He says yesterday's systems, which aimed at preventing hackers from getting in, are no longer effective, and the industry needs to build systems that can detect when something goes wrong.

These systems have to think beyond computers, as the IoT is seeing a plethora of devices connected to the Internet and to each other.

He says things are changing ? one only needs to look back at the size of the first computers. What used to fill a room, now fits into a grain of salt, he adds.

"Everything is becoming virtualised, cheaper, and smaller. And it's our job to defend all of this, he concludes.

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