Cyber-security is more important than ever

(Former FBI Agent and Author of “Cybersecurity Secrets”, Scott Augenbaum, left, standing next to myself, founder of Nalini-Global, Randell Stroud.)  

 

The internet is becoming an ever-growing force in our lives as technology rapidly expands into our everyday interactions. Apps, cell-phones, robotic automation, and wifi connections are all becoming staples in how we communicate and engage each-other on  a global scale. These technologies make life easier, cost-effective, and more accessible in regards to communication than ever before.  Even the poorest among us can utilize internet access with a simple library card or a low-cost data managed ISP. (Internet Service Provider).

However,  with this rise in technology and convenience, also comes new opportunities for amateur and career-criminals  alike to engage in scamming and/or hacking activities. Many people are aware that downloading pirated entertainment and watching adult pornographic materials are notorious for destroying cell-phones and computers around the world. Their enticing nature attracts all classes of people to consume this type of  “guilty-pleasure”. Alas, you may not be aware that there are many other less obvious ways that scammers, viruses, and hackers invade our lives.

One such scam involves creating fake facebook, twitter, and internet pages used to mimic official pages.  If you were to be sent an e-mail from a bank that had the same name as yours containing a web-link that brought you to a page which appeared official but was indeed a fake, could you spot the difference?  That Facebook friend that you have been talking to for months, have you ever tried to video-chat with them? How do you know it’s a real person? That phone call you got from the IRS claiming you owed them 15K in back taxes and is threatening you with jail time, is it a real call, or a fake?

Many of us, especially the elderly and those who aren’t tech savvy, are especially vulnerable, but even experienced tech users can fall victim to cyber attacks. Do you travel alot? Chinese hackers have been known to target foreigners in airports by phishing their IP addresses through public Wifi connections. “When traveling, consider using a VPN.”  (A technique used to hide your IP address), says Augenbaum.

Data is being shared at an astronomical rate these days. Everywhere we go on the internet, websites and apps are constantly asking for access to our GPS location, contacts, and so on. Ever wonder how programs like TLO and Spokeo get our personal information which can be bought publicly for mere dollars?  It’s most likely because you agreed to it! In other cases, such as the Equifax  data- breach that occurred a few years, are a result of hacking.  Alternatives to Google search engines such as “Duck-Duck-Go”, are becoming more popular as internet users are becoming more aware of privacy concerns.

Mr. Augenbaum gives great advice in his book on how to protect yourself from such attacks.  Creating complex passwords, using VPN, managing internet activity by scrutinizing suspicious links, and safe storage of passwords are just a few ways people can protect themselves from attack. Once your bank account is hacked or your SSN is stolen, havoc can be wreaked upon your life.  The internet is a fun place to share idea, learn knowledge, and to entertain ourselves in moments of boredom. Yet, it can also be a scary place full of enticing sinful behaviors and predators of all sorts.

I would highly recommend his book to anyone who is looking to create a safer environment for themselves when distributing data and personal information.  His book can be purchased by clicking the link below:

 

 

My time with Edward Snowden’s Attorney, Ben Wizner

(Wizner, Randell Stroud (Founder of Nalini-Global)

It was October of 2015, I got the call from an old colleague  that Ben Wizner was in town  at the Nashville Public Library giving a lecture on cyber-security and how it relates to civil liberties concerns. Mr. Wizner boasts an impressive resume consisting of visits to Guantanamo Bay, handling a plethora of civil rights cases , and most recently the handling of Edward Snowden’s seditious charges of leaking classified information during his tenure working for the National Security Administration which showed that the government was monitoring its citizens’ cell phone conversations and internet usage among other things.  Snowden  currently resides in Russia under assylum status and is still wanted by the US government to stand trial for his actions.

Recent polls show that most Americans have mixed feelings towards him. Alongside his leak of  the NSA’s deemed “Spy Program”,  also known as “PRISM”, document leaks also showed a black budget of $52 million dollars and  revealed the United Kingdom’s similar spy program code-named “Tempora”. Information regarding covert operations  overseas were also revealed.

Because of this, some Americans argue that his actions endangered our nation from a foreign policy military perspective and could have negative blowback consequences towards our national security. On the other hand, civil rights leaders praise him for exposing what is seen as “overarching government intrusion”.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, the facts gathered from the leak to pose many interesting questions.  Should Snowden have alerted his superiors and complained through a proper investigative agency? Is the government going too far? Should we have privacy concerns? How should we treat whistleblowers? Should we create more agencies to oversee these programs so that whistleblowers are not needed? What can we do to protect ourselves online from cyber-attacks? Should people really be put on watchlists for visiting a controversial website even by accident?

After the event was over, I pulled Ben aside and decided to pick his brain a bit and engage in a more in-depth conversation.  We both agreed that more oversight into cyber-intelligence gathering and the practice of placing people arbitrarily on “Government watchlists” needs definite reform. The most important take away from our conversation could be made in two points.

  1. How do we balance security and liberty? How can we protect our countrymen while still respecting our people’s right to privacy and their ability to speak freely without fear?
  2. If something appears unconstitutional or inhumane, we as a society need to gather and have discussions about it, especially on the local political levels.

Mr. Wizner believes that our leaders in Washington are making too many decisions on a “whim”, whereas more consideration, transparency, and a shift in our culture of detachment needs to change. My meeting with Mr. Wizner was very thought provoking and certainly does open Pandora’s box.

Is the NSA violating the 4th Amendment? Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky, engaged in a nearly two day long filibuster to explain why he thinks they are, whereas others like Governor Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham, believe that the program is a necessity in the modern cyber age in order to keep us protected from terrorism.

Obi-Wan Kenobi from the Star Wars series once said, ” Everyone is right, from a certain point of view. ” Just as in foreign policy, those who participate in war never see themselves as the enemy, but always as the liberator, but perhaps both sides have some sins to share.

Regardless of where you stand on this issue, I think we can all agree that its time we come together as a nation for a “house meeting” at the roundtable, and start becoming more politically active and engaging in conversation.  Its a good start to an age old argument..

Is it possible to have security while respecting liberty? Does one weaken the other?

Let us know what you think!

Nalini-Global 

2017