Today, I had the pleasure of attending Western Australian Internet Association’s first (out of four) breakfast events. The main topic on the agenda was E-Security and a panel of expert, representing commercial, government and educational bodies, were there to shed a light on the latest developments.
The topic of E-Security is rapidly becoming of enormous significance, not only to the ICT industry but to the wider community. In some countries cyber crime is an industry, employing hundreds of staff targeting more affluent countries. At the same time our schools are adopting high-speed connectivity for all students, leading the next generation into a connected world.
Here’s a short summary of the main topics discussed during the event. For more information please follow the related links at the bottom of the page.
Sophos’s Asia Pacific Managing Director initiated the event by discussing organized cyber crimes. He highlighted that online organized crime rates are escalating rapidly. Online criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the techniques they use to try and scam private people and businesses alike. Unfortunately their techniques are evolving much faster than legislation and community awareness, estimated to be at least 12 months behind.
Police Cyber Crime Unit
The representative from WA’s Cyber Crime Unit expanded on the safety of children, and how Internet predators are becoming increasingly Internet savvy and often avoid getting caught by engaging in their illegal activities at work. Nevertheless the audience was happy to learn about a recent case where the Cyber Crime Unit successfully tracked down an online predator, who had managed to stay anonymous for a long time by exclusively using his employer’s Internet resources. He worked for a very large organization, but thanks to the employer’s internal security and monitoring system he was identified before he had the chance to commit further crimes.
Hiding in a Wireless Hotspot
Wireless hotspots, today free at many airports, coffee shops and fast food chains, was another concern raised by the police’s Cyber Crime Unit. More often than not, the companies providing this free access to customers do not have a system in place to monitor and alert on any inappropriate or illegal activities. When this is the case it is virtually impossible to prevent predators using these networks to stay anonymous. Unfortunately, legislation, or public outcry, to address the issue is not likely to occur until an illegal activity, enabled by the anonymous use of wireless hot spots, takes place and receives media attention.
The representative from the educational sector continued to discuss online safety related to children and students. He highlighted that security system at schools and universities are essential, but not always enough. On many occasions students bypass the school’s firewall by using virus ridden public proxies to access blocked sites. Even students with studious intent occasionally use public proxies to access legitimate sites that have been blocked thanks to a “block worthy” word in a corporate blog, or something of similar virtuousness.
The importance of educating children about the dangers of social networking was also emphasized. Children are often overconfident in their abilities to spot a predator among their peers. However, in reality, they do not fully comprehend the psychological techniques used by online prowlers to gain their trust.
To sum up, the event focused the changing landscape of the internet and internet security. In our internet dependent world everyone is at risk, whether at work, at home, or at school. The best practices, when working towards a safer e-environment, keeps changing but the proactive theme throughout the event emphasized a combination of security systems, system monitoring, education of workforce (parents, teachers, students), and an increased involvement from all levels within organizations and community.