attacks are less damaging than “dropping bombs” according to Vince
Steckler, CEO of antivirus firm Avast. The threat of government spy
agencies is also exaggerated, with Android alarm clock apps more of a danger
to ordinary people.
Steckler, whose company’s security software is installed on more than
230 million computers worldwide, said that while he didn’t advocate
cyber attacks he could see why they were carried out.
“In many ways its a gentler destruction of a bad
capability than dropping bombs. It certainly doesn’t kill anywhere
near as many people as when you drop a bomb on a facility,
especially if they miss,” he told WIRED.co.uk.
Steckler claimed that the recent attacks on Sony, which have been strongly linked to North
Korea, were a lot less damaging than the rogue state dropping a
“primitive atomic bomb” on Sony’s headquarters.
“You’ve got the sensationalist stuff, which is the
North Korean stuff, the NSA, et cetera but
frankly do I have anything on my computer or email that’s going to
interest the NSA or the FSB [Russian Federal Security Service] or
MI6 or the Israelis? I can’t imagine I do,” Steckler said.
“They’re all fishing around for information, but I
don’t view them as serious threats against consumers, they’re just
part of the buzz that’s out there.”
“Why do we get so upset about how much spying the NSA
is doing but we don’t get upset about how much spying Google is
doing, Yahoo is doing, Coca-Cola, anyone who operates a
He said that alarm clock apps were
also a big threat, adding that many seemingly innocent apps had
access to vast quantities of personal data. Such ‘rogue’ apps have
been commonplace on the Google Play store for many years, he
“There’s always going to be the state sponsored
stuff out there and that makes more exciting headlines. It’s
certainly more exciting to write a headline about some piece of
state-sponsored malware that’s targeting Russian or Iranian
reactors than writing: ‘Hey, you’ve got 50 million instances of
this alarm clock [app] that’s stealing all of your photos, videos,
call log and selling that information.’ But that’s much more
dangerous to a user.”
Steckler claimed that people had “lost privacy”
because apps and websites were harvesting their data, something
that few people properly understand: “If I buy an alarm clock at
Tesco that clock is not going to take all my pictures and
everything else and send it to the alarm clock company, right?”
He said that while many people were unwilling to pay
for apps and web services they still had a “natural expectation” as
to what things do.
“They naturally should expect spy agencies to spy, they do not
naturally expect an alarm clock to take all their pictures, their
call log, et cetera and send it to the alarm clock company,
even if the thing is free. They expect an alarm clock to have
access to the time,” Steckler explained.