Monday, October 17, 2016

Cybersecurity: an extreme sport

Today, one year ago...

Ok but… Should I worry about it or it doesn’t matter whatever I do? This question is on people’s mind regarding the Internet. As usual, both extremes are dangerous, although cybersecurity is to digital like an extreme sport to health. Like every Monday, we look back over a year ago, to run into the news that then, as today, demanded our awareness. And no paying attention involves taking risks.

For instance, one may think that if the CIA director can be hacked, it doesn’t matter as many barriers as you want to put, they will be useless. “I’m not the CIA director”, you may say. That’s fine, but if you lower your defenses, the overall experience on the network is more insecure, and an unauthorized access to the most powerful person in the world could have started in your own computer, used like a zombie device to launch all kinds of attacks and make all kinds of evil.

What happened to Mr. Brennan, chief at the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States, looks like a joke if we compare it with the case that happened over a year ago: a Kosovar citizen, sympathizer with the Islamic State, would have taken all kinds of data, including personal identification to hand it to the Islamic organization. The matter was of such a huge magnitude that it was the first time that the United States requested the extradition of this offender because of a reason related to cybersecurity. 

Other times there are headlines that can be especially confusing for Internet users. For example, when we read that Google, Facebook and Microsoft, among other majors in the technology sector, say “no” to their own administration when sharing information, because they doubt about the ability of institutions to keep users’ privacy. Wait a minute, but isn’t it privacy a public good? Shouldn’t it be the other way around, that institutions demand companies those commitments, as (apparently) happens in Europe? Who is who in this game and what role do they play? Who am I getting protected from: the guard, the one that claims to be the guard, both or none of them because they already know about me everything they want?

Sometimes it seems virtually impossible to escape from fear. You can wear a thousand digital masks, it doesn’t matter, a gang of cybercriminals can manage to exploit a vulnerability in the sum Magento + eBay, and give you a new malware and you don’t know it. Or, on the contrary, not having taken any action until you learn that US Marines are learning how to use the sextant again, in order to face a possible GPS hacking. An extreme sport in which trying to be invulnerable is as useless as obviating that any electronic signal can fall into the wrong hands.

And this happened a year ago. In 365 days the chances to defeat the enemy increase. But also the ways where you can be attacked. Becoming paranoid is as harmful as not paying attention. The risk is there, and it is our right and our duty to learn to manage it. Like we always say: read, comment, share… Do not remain on the sidelines.

Image source: freeimages.


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