'Data is the new oil': F-Secure man on cartels, disinformation and IoT

An unlikely trio? Not according to Mikko Hypponen

Welders wearing protective clothing fixing welding and grinding industrial construction oil and gas or water and sewerage plumbing pipeline outside on site. Photo by Andrea Slatter/Shutterstock

Questions about cyber influence continue to cloud last year's US presidential elections and recently similar allegations have been levelled against the Brexit vote.

Mexican armed forces are apprehensive about upcoming elections in that country but it's not the US or the Russians they are worried about – it's the cartels. Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at Finnish security company F-Secure, relayed the anecdote during a discussion about geopolitics and IoT.

Election campaigning on social media should be banned, said Hypponen, pointing out that Japan does this already. As a result, Facebook doesn't sell in the Asian country. F-Secure found this from Google ad guidelines.

Sean Sullivan, a security advisor at F-Secure, saw the same issue differently: "Disinformation exists on Twitter, it's how it is packaged and exposed on cable news that's the bigger problem. Bait is put out there and cable news picks it up."

Sullivan, a political science graduate, added that combatting disinformation is more a matter of media literacy and critical thinking than rooting out trolls and Russian bots on social media.

Mikko Hypponen, Chief Research Officer at F-Secure

F-Secure's Mikko Hypponen on IoT: If it uses electricity, it will go online

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Internet of insecure Things

Hypponen argued IoT is a bigger revolution than mobile because it will transform workforces. For example, there will be no truck drivers in 20-25 years, he said. Shorter term the job of refuse collector and the like has been affected by IoT sensors in bins that tell managers which receptacles are full. This can mean fewer collections and, in some cases, disgruntled workers have responded by sabotaging devices.

"IoT is not about users wanting internet access on appliances," Hypponen said, "it's about vendors wanting to connect them to the internet so that they can collect data."

Vendors have not quite worked out how to monetise this data as yet. They do know that they'll need a record of historic data to turn it into something useful in future hence the desire to capture it now. "Data is the new oil," Hypponen concluded.

Meanwhile, the security of IoT devices remains lamentably poor. Mirai failed to act as a wake-up call, with a few honourable exceptions. "Ikea take IoT security seriously because they don't want a product recall," Hypponen said, adding that end users only take IoT security seriously once ransomware comes to devices. ®

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