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Are We Hacked? Premiere of RT Documentary's New Series

In the digital age, we spend a significant part of our lives in cyberspace. We shop online, make friends online, work and relax online. But do we realise the net is just as dangerous as the real world? Do we understand there are threats that neither the state nor we can counter? Are we hacked? See the premiere of RT Documentary's new series on Monday to find out!

"We are empowering ourselves to be more efficient. We are quicker with our transactions, how we can make mobile payments from our phones," says Sam Soichet, Emerging Markets Managing Director, EEC SERVICES. "We can tell 'Alexa' to open up our garage door… All these things come with it – a lot of efficiency and a lot of benefits. But with that comes a trade-off – which is there is more cybersecurity risk. An extraordinary amount of paranoia… The truth is that every device is a potential entry point for a possible security attack. Take any individual today; you'll be able to find absolutely everything about them on their phones.

Every device is a potential entry point for a possible security attack / Freestocks via Unsplash

Today, all our lives are packed in a small device – our preferences, social circle, contacts, correspondence. Though it facilitates countless aspects of our lives, it also entails grave risks.

People click some links, get their devices infected, and scammers gain remote access to their phones. And then they can do absolutely anything they want: access the camera, access the correspondence, pictures, and so on. So most people are at fault for infecting their own devices when they click on some malicious links. And they may not even be aware that scammers are already inside their phones, and they are being monitored, being watched.

With cases of digital espionage extensively covered in the media, people have become more aware but, at the same time, more paranoid. So you start putting tape over your screen cameras, you start changing your passwords every day.

Extensive media coverage of cases of digital espionage raises awareness but breeds paranoia

"You switch your mic off everywhere – someone might be listening in, it's all so scary…" says Svetlana Ostrovskaya, Digital Forensics Coach at Group-IB. "On the other hand, some people have the 'whatever' attitude to all that. Like, 'No one cares about me. Why would I need two-factor authentication?' For instance, 'I've got 15 subscribers on Instagram. Who would ever need them?' But that's not the way to carry on either.

"They need everything. And they will hack a fifteen-subscribers account if it can be used because it's been verified already. To place an ad of some store in there."

"Or they can post notice of a relative's death and ask for help and leave their card details. Attackers always find ways to use such things, so one shouldn't take these matters lightly."

While some people are increasingly paranoid about the side effects of all-out digitalisation, others take the 'whatever' attitude to all that

Experts from all over the globe sound the alarm about the possible risks of irresponsible behaviour in the digital sphere.

"From location data on your phone to all your personal information that you have, whether it's your banking information, whether it's your personal location and information about where you live, where your kids go to school…All of that information is available, and it's on your either social media pages or on your phone physically," says Hadi Hosn, CEO at AXON TECHNOLOGIES.

"The big impact and risk on individuals from a database leak is identity theft. If someone has your name, your address, your date of birth, your email address, potentially also the password that you use to access that specific website, they have a digital footprint. They have your digital footprint and your physical footprint as they know a lot more about you based on that leak.

They can use that information to provide or at least start to create an identity theft (as a type of exercise). For example, they can go to a bank pretending to be you, take loans in your name, take credit in your name.

The big impact and risk on individuals from a database leak is identity theft

When they access your email through phishing attacks, they can then use your identity within your organisation to reach out to other systems within your organisation that might store either the personal information of customers or maybe some private intellectual property that only your organisation has. For example, the design for the next car (if you are a car manufacturer) or the plan for the next iPhone (if you are "Apple") – or some other organisations that are creating innovative products. Those exist in systems, and hackers and attackers are always trying to gain the upper hand and competitive advantage by reaching those systems and maybe selling or providing them to competitors.

So there has been a lot of progress from the hacker side – a lot more progress, actually, on the hacking side, using AI, using other advanced technology - than it has been on the defensive side.

The defenders have always been one step behind the attackers and some of those technology developments, because there is more collaboration and more sharing of information in the hacking 'eco-system'.

hacker site
There has been a lot of progress from the hacker side / Clint Patterson via Unsplash

So, you need to be aware that it could happen to you. It could happen to you, and for us, for the cybersecurity industry, we say that it's not a matter of if it happens – it's a matter of when.

If you start changing your culture to become more aware of that, you'll start applying some security into your 'day-to-day'. So, for example, you'll have stronger passwords, you'll do 2-factor authentication when you're trying to access some of those websites, you might not leave your laptop on and unlocked when you are in a coffee shop if you go to the toilet or you go to order something. All of those things you need to start putting into your life – as part of that secure lifestyle."

Everyone needs to be aware that there's no escape from cyber risks

"Everybody is aware of classic hygiene rules: wash your hands, brush your teeth, don't eat food off the floor, take showers," says Gleb Miheev, CTO, BETA DIGITAL PRODUCTION. "The same goes for the digital world too. There's a term for this: digital hygiene. Use stronger passwords; use different passwords for different accounts."

If a stranger wants you to do something strange, use your critical thinking, ask yourself: 'Why?' Don't run suspicious files, don't install bootlegged software from questionable sources.

This is what digital hygiene is all about. That's something that should be taught in schools. It's a glaring omission. I don't know why it's not a thing yet.

Digital risks can be mitigated by what is called digital hygiene / Kevin Ku via Unsplash

Overall, we can't deny that the digital transformation is happening – and it's a good thing for humanity. But, we have to be careful.

Tune in to the premiere of RT Documentary's I Am Hacked series to learn more about digital hygiene!