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Cybersecurity: code-breakers try to keep up with hackers

, July 16, 2013, 0 Comments

Cybersecurity is high on the agenda right now. With societies, businesses and governments ever-more reliant on the Internet, new technologies that ensure protection from malicious software need to be developed.

Just over two decades ago, cybersecurity was a fledgling industry, operating on a small scale. The experts would keep their eyes peeled for potential malware – often with the help of concerned users – and then create a signature for it. Their database was a bit like a collection fingerprint samples. They would then search suspect computers for a match.

But those days are long gone. The sheer quantity of malware out there means that the world of cybersecurity has had to adapt fast.

“These days we see about 200,000 unique samples every day,” explains David Emm, of cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab. “And in order to respond to that, you can’t rely on reactive technologies. So much more, we’ve had to develop over the last few years technologies which are really designed to be able to identify stuff based on its behavior.”

Today’s code-breakers still need to be interested in puzzles, patterns and mathematical challenges. But rather than writing code, they’re more in the business of developing preventative strategies. It’s all about understanding online behavior and monitoring software for anomalies.

And of course those who enter into the industry need to have a strong ethical drive.

“If you think about it, we need to know that somebody working on this isn’t going to be drawn into, if you like the ‘dark side’ for want of a better term,” said Emm.

Fears about Internet safety

The recent NSA scandal in the United States has also put cybersecurity in the headlines. Some people are now asking themselves what they can do to prevent governments from reading their emails or tracking the sites they visit online.

“As a society we are more and more dependent on the Internet. That’s great, but it does mean that it provides more exposure, more points of contact at which somebody can try to interfere with those Internet-based services. And it could be to steal secrets. It could be to steal information that could be sold on the black market. It could be to try and extort money. But it could just as easily be social or political protest,” Emm told DW.

Our own governments have huge concerns about the threat posed by hackers and cyber terrorists. Most critical infrastructure, from power plants to sewerage systems, tends to be computerized nowadays. Any disruption of these services would have a huge impact on ordinary citizens. So that’s why people are looking to take mitigating actions.

Finland leads the way

One country that is leading the way in this field is Finland – it is home to many of the world’s top cybersecurity companies. Jarno Limnell works for Stonesoft, an IT firm in the Finnish capital, Helsinki.

“Finland is a very strongly technologically-orientated country. And people are, compared to many other countries, used to using technology. We have many, many small companies with excellent innovations in the field of technology,” Limnell explained. “And when those companies cooperate closely with the government, I think that gives us a great advantage also.”

Indeed, Finland’s reputation in this field has attracted attention from abroad.

“[Many nations] have come here to see how we have we have tackled these problems and how these models for this cooperation have been organized,” Limnell said.

Modern-day cybersecurity experts have look to one another to develop new expertise – given that the Internet is a global phenomenon, tackling cyber crime and cyberterrorism involves international effort.

Source: Deutsche Welle |