Most of us think that using an antivirus while browsing the Internet keeps us safe on the World Wide Web. However, security experts think otherwise, and rightly so. In an interview with Mahevash Muses, Athul Jayaram talks about how he became a cybersecurity consultant, what visiting the dark web can do to your system, and how you and I can be secure online.
Did you become a cybersecurity consultant by fate or by design?
By fate. I did a certification in ethical hacking in 2013 while pursuing engineering. Since I was doing computer science engineering, my skills were focused solely on software development and algorithms. In 2017, when I was pursuing an MBA, I felt that it was not at all challenging when compared to BTech. I wanted something new and difficult that would keep me busy during my free time, so I decided to explore this field. Over time, I realized that this is where I want to belong, this is how I can make a difference to the billion people.
What is the one aspect of cybersecurity that you wish more people were aware of?
All hackers are not bad. On the contrary, white hat or ethical hackers protect you by finding vulnerabilities and only letting you know of them. Hacking itself is neither illegal nor a crime. It always depends on the intention of the person who is exploiting.
True or false: visiting the dark web threatens one’s privacy and makes their system extremely vulnerable to cyber attacks. And yes, I am asking this question because of the Black Mirror episode ‘Shut Up And Dance’.
That’s a nice question, but what you see on TV may not always be true to life. Basically, the dark web is that part of the web where illegal trading occurs. A portion of the dark web can be accessed through the openly available TOR project. Visiting a dark website doesn’t directly make one vulnerable to cyber attacks, but to be on the safer side, don’t download and open any files from such a website as it may contain malware. Make sure that your operating system and browser are updated to the latest version.
However, the dark web can be dangerous. It is recommended that you check your browser permissions, especially the camera and microphones. To prevent your webcam from being hacked and being used to spy on you like in that Black Mirror episode, ensure that it is disabled. In fact, put a webcam cover on your laptop at all times. Also, use a paid VPN to ensure better anonymity.
How can ordinary people ensure their privacy and security is not compromised on the Internet?
It is really difficult to get full privacy on the internet. Facebook has one of the best cybersecurity teams globally, but it is also the one which has come up in the news recently for negative reasons. Organizations with billion of users are failing to guard their users and provide privacy. GDPR, which is put forward by Europe, has helped ensure that most organizations control user’s data or else pay hefty fines for security breaches.
As a common man, you can ensure privacy by giving your personal details to only reputed websites or applications. Keep separate email ids for personal, banking and social media use. Ensure you give a different password everywhere you sign up, so in case of a data breach on say, a social networking site, the hackers won’t be able to get access to the login details of your bank account.
Athul Jayaram is a consultant at a Big Four consulting organization. He is a technology-driven professional with good knowledge of IT and Security. His key interests are web application penetration testing, mobile application penetration testing, server penetration testing, and network security assessment. He has been acknowledged by Google, Microsoft, Sony, Intel, Nokia, Lenovo, Oracle, SAP, Yahoo, and many other top organizations for finding critical security vulnerabilities.