In a dynamic world, especially in today’s world, matters seem to have their own velocity and evolve at a pace that leaves us groping for solutions to problems which stealthily seem to elude us. We are left like forlorn children who play Hide and go Seek in an environment that never reveals that which we are looking for.
It is not my habit to begin an article in a pessimistic note. It goes against my Jewish upbringing, my Yisraeli essence and above all, my personal disposition. This is, however, the nagging feeling, the sense of uncertainty, vulnerability, that kind of feeling of a rug being pulled from underneath me which has been accompanying me lately.
You, dear readers are probably wondering why.
For the last couple of weeks, I have been attending a course at the Inter-Disciplinary Center in Herzeliya. As part of a course, we visited a cyber training center, one day last week. The center, located in Hadera, is a leader in cyber defense training and solutions for diverse organizations. It caters, among others, to sensitive governmental infrastructure, production and financial companies. The visit awarded us a glimpse at the precariousness of our existence not only as individuals but as members of our own society and a part of the family of nations.
The sudden overwhelming awareness that what might seem as insignificant choices that we make in our daily routine, both on the micro and macro levels, may put our lives and the lives of the ones dear to us at jeopardy, was quite an eye opener to many who partook in the experience. The mere realization that in some cases, every move we make in cyberspace, every act we engage in there may expose us in the public domain and thus put us at numerous risks, was shuddering.
Moreover, the realization that such activities can subject us and those around us to being a tool which is used as a means of extortion towards achieving some political goals, was rather appalling. The few examples that were shared with us, examples in which cyber-attacks by one group or state against another resulted in disabling vital infrastructure such as taking out power grids, water systems and paralyzing networks while exposing vast segments of the population to disruptions of various essential services rendered to them, were horrifying.
Following the visit, I spoke with Mr. Rami Efrati, an expert in Cyber Technology Strategic Methods, the Founder and President of Firmitas Cyber Solutions. He is the former Head the Civilian Division of the Israel National Cyber Bureau in the Prime Minister’s Office which was established by Mr. Netanyahu (one of his best and wisest moves, according to Efrati). Prior to that, Col. (Res.) Efrati had served in the Israel Defense Forces for more than twenty-eight years. He commanded numerous prestigious operational and technological positions in Military Intelligence and received the Creative Thinking Award from the Director of Military Intelligence.
In light of what I learned in one visit to the cyber center which caused some alarm among some of those present, I expressed an interest in learning how individuals, especially lay ones, like myself, could learn more about this new kind of war that is being waged against us. More importantly, I wanted to learn how we can prepare for it and prevent our computer, our data and eventually ourselves from being compromised.
According to Rami, there are many risks facing internet users. These range from stealing money, information, identity theft to bullying and violence.
“There are ways to protect oneself from such attacks, “Rami adds in a more cheerful and encouraging note. “First and foremost, one needs to develop awareness to the posed risks and practice vigilance. There are many tempting offers, easy money and gifts. I always tell people, “ he continues with a reassuring tone, “not to be quick to push the ‘enter’ key, especially if the sender is unknown.”
Rami also recommends that users change their passwords at least twice a year. “A combination of letters and numbers is highly recommended,” he adds. Having an antivirus program as well as regularly updating all programs is another crucial means to protecting one’s computers and the data stored in it. Backing up all information onto an external drive should, likewise, be done on a regular basis to ensure that one does not lose important data.
There are other ways, according to Rami, which one could further utilize to achieve our desired goals. These include being careful not to use open WiFi, avoid using USB as such a device may be exploited to infect computers in a way that can evade easy detection and protection.
Last but not least, Rami stresses the importance of shutting down one’s computer at night before going to sleep. Such a step will reduce exposure to attackers and invasions.