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Mikko Hyppönen: Smart devices are “IT asbestos”


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Mikko Hyppönen: Smart devices are “IT asbestos”

The proliferation of “stupid” internet-connected smart devices will be the “IT asbestos of the future”, cybersecurity expert Mikko Hyppönen has warned.


“Asbestos was such a great innovation. It looked like a miracle material, originally,” explained Hyppönen, chief research officer at Finnish cybersecurity firm F-Secure.


“Cheap, easy to manufacture, perfect in every way. You can mould it into any shape you want, it’s great for insulation. It’s great for fireproofing. And it’s also lethal.”



Hyppönen draws parallels between the rampant use of cancer-causing asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s to the cybersecurity risks that come with the explosion of smart devices worldwide today.


“Such a great innovation, which then decades later turned out to be the worst innovation,” he said, speaking to press at F-Secure’s headquarters in Helsinki.


According to IoT Analytics, there are currently seven billion internet of things devices worldwide. Forecasts vary, but the consensus is the number will grow exponentially over the coming years, with some estimates as high as 40 billion connected IoT devices by 2025.


Security in IoT devices has repeatedly been shown to be lacking: from a vulnerable child location-tracking watch to office printers at risk to Russian cyberattacks.


Often, this is as simple as device owners failing to change the password from a weak factory setting. In the race to get products to market ahead of competitors, security is also often an afterthought.


The ever-growing number of IoT devices, in combination with this lax security, is a perfect storm for cyberattacks.


“What’s happening right now, around us, I guess would be characterised as IT asbestos,” said Hyppönen.

The IoT revolution

Hyppönen explained that while the internet revolution brought every computer online, the IoT revolution is “taking everything else online”.


We are currently in the early stages of this revolution, said Hyppönen, but eventually “anything that uses electricity will be online”.



Source: Mikko Hyppönen: Smart devices are “IT asbestos”

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