The real world isn't like the online world.
In the real world, you only have to worry about the criminals who live in your city. But in the online world, you have to worry about criminals who could be on the other side of the planet. Online crime is always international because the Internet has no borders.
Today computer viruses and other malicious software are no longer written by hobbyist hackers seeking fame and glory among their peers. Most of them are written by professional criminals who are making millions with their attacks. These criminals want access to your computer, your passwords, and your credit card numbers.
National police forces and legal systems are finding it extremely difficult to keep up with the rapid growth of online crime. They have limited resources and expertise to investigate online criminal activity. 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, especially compared with those attached to real-world crimes.
Because of the low prioritization for prosecuting cybercriminals and the delays in launching effective cybercrime penalties, we are thereby sending the wrong message to the criminals and that's why online crime is growing so fast. Right now would-be online criminals can see that the likelihood of their getting caught and punished is vanishingly small, yet the profits are great.
Computer security has gone several distinct eras. Attacks morph and change every few years. However, the biggest changes we've seen have not been technical. They've been social. It's all about the attackers and their motives.
If we want to be able to stop the attacks, we have to understand who the attackers are.
Mikko Hypponen is the Chief Research Officer of F-Secure in Finland. He has been working with computer security for over 20 years and has fought the biggest virus outbreaks in the net, including Loveletter, Conficker and Stuxnet. His TED Talk on computer security has been seen by almost a million people and has been translated to over 35 languages. He has addressed the EU Parliament and his columns have been published in the New York Times, Wired, CNN and BBC. Mr. Hypponen was selected among the 50 most important people on the web in by the PC World magazine. The Foreign Policy magazine included him on the list of "Top 100 Global Thinkers". Mr. Hypponen sits in the advisory boards of the ISF and the Lifeboat foundation.