Endpoint/Device Security

WithSecure’s Mikko Hyppönen: Walled gardens one of the great security innovations of our time

WithSecure chief research officer Mikko Hyppönen seen here speaking to reporters from the company’s Helsinki headquarters. (Joe Uchill/Staff)

WithSecure chief research officer Mikko Hyppönen told reporters Wednesday that the recent push to mandate open platforms for phones and other digital devices would devastate one of the great security innovations of our time.

"I would claim that introduction of Android and iOS and iPad OS is the single biggest security improvement we've seen in the last 15 years," he said.

Hyppönen made the comments in advance of WithSecure's Sphere conference, for which the security vendor flew reporters from SC Media and other outlets to its Helsinki headquarters to observe. It was the first conference for WithSecure under its new corporate structure (until recently, it had been the business division of F-Secure).

A billboard advertising Apple's iPhone security shown in 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Lawmakers in the U.S. and EU have taken aim recently at walled-garden platforms like iOS with centrally controlled app stores as potential monopolies. Vendors like Apple have argued that keeping robust oversight over which programs can be installed or run — at the cost of user's freedom to install anything they want from any source — prevents users from accidentally installing malware.

"Of course monopolies are bad, and I see why the EU wants to break that apart. But the end result is bad for security," said Hyppönen. "No doubt about it, as soon as you can start downloading arbitrary executables for your iOS devices, there will be more attacks. So what's the solution? I don't have one. We don't like monopolies. We don't like malware, but we have to choose one."

Allowed to flourish on its own, Hyppönen said the walled-garden approach would be a major component of future security. It is a trend that is already starting to emerge, with enterprises choosing iPads and Chromebooks rather than traditional laptops to prevent users from installing malicious programs.

Efforts in Europe could stall that transition, he said. "I don't like what the EU is doing regarding the App Store."

Joe Uchill

Joe is a senior reporter at SC Weekly, focused on policy issues. He previously covered cybersecurity for Axios, The Hill and the Christian Science Monitor’s short-lived Passcode website.

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