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#IPEXPO: Mikko Hypponen: IoT is the ‘Next Revolution’

“We are all very lucky to be living right now. We’re lucky because we get to see several revolutions in one lifetime.”

These were the words of F-Secure’s Mikko Hypponen at IP EXPO Europe 2017, who said the first of those revolutions was the birth and growth of the internet. “Over the last 25 years every computer on the planet has gone online,” he added.

Right now, he continued, we are in the middle of the second revolution, which is that everything else is going online. 

If we are lucky, and live long enough, we will see the third revolution: the AI revolution. “That’s going to be scary as hell”, he said.

The focus of Hypponen’s presentation was the current, IoT/smart revolution though, with more and more everyday items being manufactured with internet connection. 

He pointed out that the chips that make a ‘standard’ device ‘smart’ are becoming so cheap, they are almost worthless, and so there is a mega drive for appliance makers to put them into everything: toasters, ovens, washing machines, cars, etc.

However, Hypponen argued that these types of devices are not going online for the benefit of the consumer, but for the benefit of the manufacturer in terms of data collection, with the consumer often ignorant to the fact they even have any kind of internet connection built in. 

“You (the consumer) won’t have a choice,” he said. “You will not even know which of your devices are going online, and they might not necessarily be going online through your WI-FI.”

Hypponen admitted he hopes that, in 10 years’ time, we will be able to look back at the IoT/smart revolution and say that we saw more benefits from it than problems. The reality is though, “whenever an appliance is described as ‘smart’, it’s vulnerable.

“We are exposing devices that were never a target before to the internet, where they can be targeted,” and that’s creating new security ‘weakest links’ that we may not even know about.

What’s more, smart devices rely on the support of cloud services, but what happens when those services fail or go offline? He asked. 

Some IoT manufacturers are getting it right though, he concluded, citing the example of a smart light bulb produced by Swedish firm IKEA which has very good, purpose-built security. Therefore, his advice to IoT manufacturers was that if you want to produce long-lasting, workable smart devices you must build them securely from the beginning, something “that most IoT vendors are failing to do.”

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