More Sophisticated Cybercriminals Bring New Threats to the Internet

Low prosecution rates encourages hacking, and the globally-connected Internet results in international citizens becoming subject to US government surveillance.

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Security vulnerabilities like Heartbleed get a lot of press because they have such a serious impact on the security of major parts of the Internet. But there are some very different, much less clear threats to the Internet. Mikko Hyppönen, chief research officer for security software provider F-Secure, examines these new issues in cybersecurity.

With so little effort to combat cybercrime, it has become enticing for criminals. “The victims, police, prosecutors and judges rarely uncover the full scope of the crimes that often take place across international boundaries. Action against the criminals is too slow, the arrests are few and far between, and too often the penalties are very light,” Hyppönen writes.

Hyppönen also notes that with low prosecution rates and high profit margins, the type of cybercriminal has changed. In 2003, the majority of malware and viruses were created by users that were in it for themselves. Now that the Internet has become so widely used around the world, and the security of end-user machines is so good, the targets have shifted along with the perpetrators.

Bitcoin is a prime example. Mining bitcoins can be very profitable, but only if there’s a large enough botnet to generate sufficient calculations. So coders are inserting malware into unsuspecting computers to perform more calculations around the clock, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a desktop PC or a smartTV.

Governments have also become very interested in the technologies of hacking, now that there is so much data available online. “The two arguably most important inventions of our generation, the Internet and mobile phones, changed the world. However, they both turned out to be perfect tools for the surveillance state. And in a surveillance state, everybody is assumed guilty,” Hyppönen writes.

Users upload more information about themselves and allow technology into their lives at rates never before seen. With the government’s focus on user data acquisition, users’ rights and the openness of the Internet could be threatened. Not to mention the malware that governments around the world could employ to deepen their grip on citizen surveillance. Ninety-six percent of the world’s citizens are outside the U.S., but when they use U.S.-based services like Facebook, they become subject to U.S. surveillance, Hyppönen points out.

Indeed, today’s Internet landscape is vastly different from that of ten years ago. Methods of hacking and surveillance through malware have become increasingly sophisticated, and the profit potential is huge. Whether the target is a corporation, end users or their technology, dangers on the Internet are varied.

Hyppönen doesn’t suggest users lock themselves away for the Internet. Instead, he recommends we protect this vital resource. “We were the first generation that got online. We should do what we can to secure the net and keep it free so that it will be there for future generations to enjoy.”