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Safer Internet Day 2021 – The experts have their say

With the ever-increasing number of internet users, private and sensitive information being sent online has increased enormously over the years.

With a theme once again of “Together for a better internet”, this year’s Safer Internet Day – which takes place this week – calls upon all stakeholders to join together to make the internet a safer and better place for all.

The team at IT Security Briefing spoke to several industry experts to find out more about the day and what it means for the wider industry…

Simon Marchand, Chief Fraud Prevention Officer at Nuance Communications

Safer Internet Day acts as a reminder to businesses and consumers alike that cyber security solutions and fraud prevention tools are key in order to make the internet a safer and better place for all. In fact, with the current, necessary shift towards remote working and online education – it has never been more important to look to experienced security and fraud solutions providers that demonstrate a strong track record of protection against cyber threats to security.

“The sad truth is that cybercriminals and fraudsters don’t stop their crimes because of a pandemic. In fact, they often seize the immense change that comes with an event like this to ramp up their activity, targeting the most vulnerable and least protected – in order to manipulate their data and steal their personal information.  

“Whilst there is not and never will be one single silver bullet for fighting fraud, biometrics is a proven, effective authentication factor and fraud tool. By layering it into a data protection strategy, individuals and businesses are able to identify whether a person really is who they say they are. 

“With voice biometrics able to leverage more than 1000 unique speech characteristics- from pronunciation to size and shape of your nasal passage- and behavioural biometrics measuring minute details- such as how a person holds their phone or even how they pause once they finish a task- systems that incorporate them are considerably less susceptible to hacking.   

“When it comes to fraud, prevention is always better than a cure. In today’s landscape consumers are more aware than ever of the importance to protect their own information, and they will hold accountable the organisations that don’t do enough to protect the information they share with them. Without question, businesses need to be one step ahead and education around the most effective security solutions- like biometrics- is key.”

Lucas Szymanowski, Director of Information Security and GRC at Wrike 

“The ongoing pandemic has acted as a catalyst, driving an online trend that was already well underway. As the majority of our interactions now take place in a digital format, this year’s Safer Internet Day serves as a stark reminder that it has never been more important to ensure that we all remain protected when online. 

“With teams now dispersed and the internet playing a more important role in our lives than ever before, security will be top of mind for many businesses. Whilst investing in effective security tools and technologies is important, so too is investing in the people that use them every day. If employees aren’t engaged, a business is leaving the doors open to attackers.  

“In fact, employee apathy is one of the biggest security liabilities to any organisation. Disengaged employees are more susceptible to outside manipulation, more likely to leave systems vulnerable due to negligence, and at greater risk for leaking sensitive company information. Yes, business leaders need to spend time boosting cyber security awareness and training employees about online dangers, highlighting both potential risk to the business and individuals. But when it comes to protecting a business from threats, the focus should be on driving adoption of security initiatives and increasing employee engagement. By improving engagement, employees will be more vigilant about attacks and think twice about data theft. Focusing on engagement also applies to IT teams. An engaged IT team will take the time to educate employees and collaborate with departmental leaders to ensure everyone is aware of the dangers and knows how to protect themselves. Ensuring your workforce is engaged will be especially important when you’re working with remote teams.”

Keith Glancey, Systems Engineering Manager at Infoblox

“The last year has been a serious turning point for internet usage and safety. The ongoing pandemic has meant that the majority of our interactions are now taking place in a digital format and it’s never been more important for businesses to protect both themselves and their customers online.

“Our recent Q4 Cyberthreat Intelligence Report found that email remains the top threat vector, with phishing and social engineering attacks more common than ever. Despite trainings and warnings, users continue to open suspicious emails, both in their business and personal accounts, putting sensitive corporate information at risk. 

“Safer Internet Day promotes awareness around the threat landscape and effective ways to protect both businesses and consumers. All organisations – regardless of industry – need to consider how they can optimise their security posture. With solutions such as DDI (DNS, DHCP and IPAM), companies can use a technology they already use for device connectivity to gain insight into network activities, and fortify their security posture.” 

 Petter Nylander, CEO at Besedo

“Over the last year everyone has relied on the internet so much more for their day to day lives – including school children using it for learning and education.

“Unfortunately, an inevitable but unwanted side effect of growth in online activity and users is growth in harmful content. Malicious users and false information cause real, preventable damage.

“The need to prevent harm online is not new. The urgency added by the uptick in more vulnerable users, including children, is new. Now that they have had time to understand the challenges, we should expect online businesses to renew their efforts to be more forceful and proactive about minimising harm.

“The truth is that too much slips through the net of tech companies’ moderation efforts, and whatever they are doing isn’t enough. Educating users on how they can take additional care is important, but the platforms they use need to support them with an AI-based first line of defense and specialist human operators to accurately moderate harmful content.

“The big picture is that online businesses won’t survive if they can’t demonstrate user safety: after a year of growth, we hope that this year’s Safer Internet Day will spur them towards prioritising users’ needs over company revenue.”

Gus Tomlinson, General Manager at GBG:

 “The past year has accelerated our reliance on the internet and online services – for example, during 2020 47% of consumers have opened a new online shopping account, while a third opened a new bank account. But with this shift towards digital, a whole new market opened up for fraudsters. GBG’s recent State of Digital Identity 2020 report found that not only is identity fraud already affecting one in five consumers, the ‘trust gap’ it creates poses a risk to industries which will depend on digital trust if they are to thrive in 2021 and beyond. A third of consumers are more worried about fraud, as a result of COVID-19 – most prominently banking (36%).

“As a result, establishing trust digitally and promoting online safety has never been more important, and this responsibility lies with both companies and consumers. For consumers to adjust to our digital-first new normal, and for businesses to truly prosper online and overcome the challenges of last year, we must keep pushing on the technology and education required to make those online interactions safe, fraud-free and frictionless.”

Ramsés Gallego, International Chief Technology Officer, Cybersecurity, Micro Focus

“Privacy is a fundamental human right and should be treated as a pillar for any society. Unfortunately, the Internet is being weaponised by malicious actors to violate this privacy, having the power to modify people’s mind-sets and, in turn, how they behave.

“This Safer Internet Day, however, it’s important to recognise that we have a unique opportunity to get the Internet right. Working together, individuals, governments and organisations across all industries can create a more trusting environment, enabling people to securely and safely engage with information and services online.

“Technology has a large role to play here. With the help of unsupervised machine learning tools, for example, we can implement processes and procedures to address the spread of misinformation via fake news and videos – reducing the window of exposure to lies and manipulation. Crucially, we must keep in mind that trust needs to be earned and everything we do should be undertaken ethically and lawfully.

“Through global collaboration we can put in place the correct infrastructure and legislation to ensure the next generation is able to interact with an Internet built on safe and reliable foundations.”

Rodney Joffe, SVP and Fellow, Neustar

“This Safer Internet Day represents a key opportunity to raise awareness around the spread of misinformation. While this issue is by no means new, a combination of factors – including the Covid-19 pandemic and the polarised political situation in the US – have created a tougher environment for “real” news to be trusted online.

“The fake news, misinformation and disinformation resulting from the political campaigns of the previous US administration have led to the rise in the online influence of – mostly far right – conspiracy theorist ranks such as Q-Anon, whose actions have led to mass uncertainty and anxiety worldwide. In the early stages of the pandemic, we also saw cybercriminals quickly exploit the global crisis by registering fake domains relating to the virus. A lot of these websites were designed to look like those of organisations or bodies providing vital services and information related to the virus. Quite apart from the immediate danger of low-quality, or actively misleading, information on its reader’s health and wellbeing, these domains erode trust in precisely the official sources which are best placed to counter that bad information.

“Curbing the spread of false information and shutting down fake domains requires global collaboration between tech giants, organisations and the cybersecurity community. Alongside this, more needs to be done to educate consumers on how to spot fake news and websites, which involves encouraging browsers to pay close attention to the URL of a link before they click on it – no matter where, or who, the link came from.

“We must demand vigilance of ourselves and others to mitigate the worst of misinformation. While this is an ongoing problem, the last year has been a lesson in the importance of keeping trust alive on the Internet.”


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