5 things Mikko Hyppönen has learned from 25 years of fighting viruses

F-Secure Life

F-Secure Chief Research Officer Mikko Hyppönen sat down on Monday for a video chat with renowned tech journalist and broadcaster Leo Laporte on Triangulation.

Laporte has admired Mikko and F-Secure from afar for more than twenty years, the host explained. So this first talk gave the two IT stalwarts a chance to talk over Mikko’s nearly quarter century of work at F-Secure — which he joined as a coder in 1991 when we were still known as Data Fellows.

You can watch the whole interview below or download the audio here:

The whole show is worth your time but to get ready to mark Mikko’s silver anniversary at F-Secure, we thought we’d pull out some interesting lessons he’s learned in more than two decades of tangling with digital threats.

  1. Driving a forklift — Mikko’s job before joining F-Secure — has one big advantage over being an internationally known virus hunter.
    Once you’re done with work for the day, you don’t think about your job at all. Mikko told Leo that being Chief Research Officer at a company that protects hundreds of millions of computers doesn’t give you that luxury.
  2. Some early malware creators went on to some very interesting things.
    Mikko told Leo about his trip to Pakistan to meet the two brothers who wrote the first PC virus more than 25 years ago, which you can watch below. Basit Farooq Alvi and Amjad Farooq Alvi wrote the program for what they saw as a legitimate purpose — preventing copyright infringement. Today the brothers along with a third brother run a successful telecommunications business. Robert Tapan Morris — the creator of Morrisworm the first computer worm — is a member of the Computer Science faculty at MIT and a partner in Y Combinator, which helps launch tech startups.
  3. His number one security tip? Back up your stuff.
    “Back up your computer, your iPad, your phone. And back it up so you can access it even if your house burns down.”
  4. The numbers when it comes to malware are huge.
    F-Secure Labs receives about 350,000 malware samples a day, seven days a week. “The amount of new detections we build on those samples every day is usually around 10,000… 20 [thousand] on a bad day.”
  5. Mobile malware isn’t a big problem — except, perhaps, in China — because Android and iOS are very restrictive.
    “If you are a programmer, you cannot program on your iPad,” Mikko explained. All apps that end up in the Play or App Store have to be approved by Google or Apple respectively. This model, which Mikko compares to the PlayStation and Xbox ecosystems, may be good for security, but it does have some negative consequences. “It’s also a little bit sad in the sense that when you have these closed environments, it’s sort of like converting the users from producers to consumers.”

Mikko wrapped up the interview by explaining F-Secure’s principles when it comes to protecting and respecting users’ data: “We try to sell our products the old-fashioned way. You pay for it with your money, not your privacy.”

Cheers,

Sandra

P.S.: For some bonus Mikko, watch a public lecture he gave this week at Estonian Information Technology College.

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