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Cyber Security Expert Mikko Hyppönen Worries About Extremists With Computers

A U.S. drone strike this summer targeted a British hacker who was believed to be the top cyber security expert for the Islamic State.

Getty Images/Sean Gallup

Cyber security expert Mikko Hyppönen said he worries about a new group of hackers who are willing to perpetrate the kinds of attacks even cyber criminals wouldn’t consider — extremists.

“The Islamic State is the first extremist group that has a credible offensive cyber capability,” said F-Secure Chief Research Officer Hyppönen, speaking Tuesday at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJDLive conference in Laguna Beach, Calif. “Clearly, this situation isn’t getting better. It’s getting worse.”

Hypponen said hackers are moving from Europe to Syria, where officials worry they could launch attacks that shut down computer networks or damage critical infrastructure. He said the threat is so serious, a U.S. drone strike this summer targeted a British hacker who, U.S. and European officials said, had become a top cyber expert for the Islamic State in Syria. Authorities believe the hacker led the CyberCaliphate, a hacking group which in January attacked a Twitter account belonging to the Pentagon.

Asked to describe a “horror story,” Hyppönen didn’t hesitate. He said the threat is that these groups will perpetrate an attack that cyber criminals wouldn’t even consider — because there’s no money in it. They might, for example, target the Siemens systems that control 50 percent of the world’s factory equipment.

“Extremists might be willing to do an attack like that,” Hyppönen said.

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