In the newest episode of Nasdaq’s Tomorrow’s Capital, Mikko Hypponen, a renowned authority on computer security and the Chief Research Officer of F Secure, discusses the digitization of crime and the alarming pace of online abuse.
But these actions have real-life consequences, too. Hypponen points out that a core value of cryptocurrencies -- its anonymization -- makes it attractive to criminals.
"[Cryptocurrency exchanges] are much easier targets and the best point, from the point of view of the attackers, is that if you get in, then it's game over. They've already got the money. They don't need to launder it. They don't need to hide it. It's already anonymised. It's already [untraceable] and that's perfect for criminals."
When asked if he owned any cryptocurrencies, Hypponen says this is a "trick question," noting that none one should ever answer that, because there have been cases where people have been targeted, even killed, in the real world, over their crypto holdings because "it's untrackable. The law enforcement or authorities can't find you anymore. So it is risky boasting about holding large amounts of cryptocurrency."
Beyond cryptocurrencies, online crime has spiked. The shift, he explains, has been sudden and dramatic. 15 years ago, you were much more likely to have your wallet or car stolen. Now you are much more likely to be a victim of having your passwords hacked or your credit card number stolen digitally.
And it continues to evolve. From widespread attacks on government agencies, hospitals, military units, and universities, organized crime has taken on a new meaning in the digital age, and the nature of it continues to evolve at a pace that requires even more diligence to effectively combat.
“In a nutshell, it's all about the fact that today in most Western countries, it's now more likely for us to become a victim of a crime in the online world instead of the real world,” he says.
Our response to all of this, he explains, should be as varied as the crimes that are being committed. It is not only up to institutions and global entities to remain vigilant and invest in the infrastructure and technology to combat it, but individuals as well.
Looking beyond the financial industry, the Internet of Things (IoT) is another source of concern. IoT is not just a trend -- connected devices are becoming more integrated into our daily lives as more and more machines come online daily, from all over the globe.
“We're seeing the very beginning of this revolution right now,” Hypponen said. Security is paramount as “smart apps” and technologies become embedded in our daily lives.
He said, "Let's say they've bought an IoT washing machine and they are told that it's hackable. Well, what they think is that, well, I don't care. It's a washing machine...Well, that's not the point. They are not hacking your washing machine or your fridges to gain access to your washing machine or to your fridge. They are hacking those devices to gain access to your network...the weakest link in the network is an IoT device, and we have seen this multiple times. Company networks get breached because of ventilation-automation systems which have nothing to do with your laptops or your servers, but they are computers because everything is becoming a computer."
Financial institutions are not alone in their battle for a more secure, yet inclusive digital infrastructure. But as Hypponen tells us in this episode, cybersecurity efforts should not be overlooked. It’s a new world, one that requires new ideas, innovations, and tactics to ensure a safer future, not just for FinTech, but for all of us. Listen to this episode and all others right here, on our Tomorrow's Capital page.