One is a mosquito borne virus. The other an internet borne malware. Both damaging. Both epidemic, but in their own spaces. One threatening our physical and real existence, the other our virtual space.
Living in today’s world means you have a presence on the cyber space which is almost akin to your physical presence. We molded the virtual in the image of our true life and migrated our good and bad alike to the new world. And hence technology, while it serves us in many good and great ways, also troubles us with unexpected circumstances.
Most recently, we have been confronting two epidemics in both our worlds. Chikungunya, the viral fever has been causing terrible physical sufferings; while WannaCry, a viral ransomware, took hostage of computer systems across the globe. Both the viruses continue to stress our daily lives.
The interesting part, however, is in the way we see and tackle these two threats.
“CHIKUNGUNYA, THE VIRAL FEVER HAS BEEN CAUSING TERRIBLE PHYSICAL SUFFERINGS; WHILE WANNACRY, A VIRAL RANSOMWARE, TOOK HOSTAGE OF COMPUTER SYSTEMS ACROSS THE GLOBE. BOTH THE VIRUSES CONTINUE TO STRESS OUR DAILY LIVES.”
For Chikungunya, our response is almost instinctive, leading to immediate preventative measures. But for WannaCry the response was panicky. A state where many failed to comprehend the situation itself and had to seek instructions. Strangely enough, in both cases, prevention was the first line of defense. The question is, why do we instinctively tend to take precautions for Chikungunya and fail to do so for WannaCry?
Cyber security as a part of our lifestyle is hugely undermined and grossly misunderstood. Mainly because we are the first generation learning to cope with it, and perhaps also is has to be addressed and explained by people with the right technical expertise within the technology business community. It is presented almost like a scareware, and given the mix of fright with vague technical terms so people, in general, tend to avoid understanding the topic. What is missing is the simplicity of explaining the problem itself. The mere comprehension of the similarity between avoiding clicking or downloading suspicious files or links online saves a computer or system being infected by malware is about the same as ensuring that mosquitoes don’t breed around us to prevent a disease like Chikungunya.
80% of cyber hacks are human initiated, and most of these happen due to lack of awareness from the user side. We can say it happens due to a lack of knowledge regarding IT hygiene.
Cyber security is part of the IT culture. In the physical world, we live by culture, some simple rules of engagement. The same applies to the digital world. Educating people in IT culture and making them aware of cyber security is a responsibility from every walk of life. Not just the government, but from all interacting entities. From parents at home to banks, schools, work places, telecoms, public services, private services and what not.
Let’s consider a real-life scenario. Bangladesh transacts nearly Tk 844 crore daily by mobile banking. At the same time, Kaspersky Lab reports that in Quarter 1, 2017, Bangladesh was the second most infected country in the world with mobile malware. Many of these malware are designed for banking scams. The banks can claim they have their security in place. But what about the customer end? How many banks engage in educating their clients on cyber security? Or even warning them?
The banks need to start educating that huge mobile technology enabled customer group about precautions in cyber security in straightforward terms. That effort itself can become the foundation for developing an IT culture for the nation.
Cybercrime has evolved over the years. And so has the process of security. Any system is hackable. There are hundreds and thousands of new threats in the cyber world every day. It has far reaching impacts on individuals, societies, economies, politics, commerce, terrorism and even national security. IT users need to understand this phenomenon. Call it a mandatory part of life. And the best way to get this message across is in plain language and in the simplest possible way. By relating the cyber world with the physical world.
We boil and filter our drinking water. Similarly, we need to learn to check and filter our clicks and downloads online. Just one more way in our routine life. Preventing cybercrime starts with practicing IT hygiene. Cyber security is not complicated for the IT user. It is simple, understandable and doable. Primary IT hygiene practice is as easy as follows –
1. Keep your OS, software and anti-virus updated
2. Don’t click on unknown links
3. Stop browsing unknown and suspicious sites
4. Don’t give your details and password unless sure of the asking entity
5. Don’t open suspicious emails
6. Take regular backups
7. Change passwords frequently
8. Customize the privacy settings on social media accounts
9. Be careful with your ATM card
10. Secure your Wi-Fi
11. Use free Wi-Fi zones with care
12. Be careful with Bluetooth activity
13. Avoid using free software unless sure of its reliability. Free software usually turn out to be most expensive.
14. Protect your smartphone with Anti-Virus and customize its privacy settings
Maybe add a couple of more rules in practice and that makes a cyber-security prevention scheme. To tackle the rest there are technical people. We try to prevent getting Chikungunya. But once infected we go to the doctor. That’s it.
The writer has been engaged with the cyber security industry for more than 12 years. He is the CEO of Officextracts, distributor of Kaspersky Lab in Bangladesh & Bhutan and the Managing Director of Technics Computers Pvt. Ltd., the distributor of Barracuda Networks in Bangladesh.