Cybersecurity, as defined by Google, is “the state of being protected against the criminal or unauthorized use of electronic data, or the measures taken to achieve this”. When thinking about our electronic data we would usually associate it with something like sensitive documents relating to our finances, or even seemingly private conversations between yourself and a friend. Less frequently, we may even say that electronic data includes our electronic footprint; the sites we visit, and the places we have been. Both of which are aspects of our lives that companies like Google kindly collect and store for us. If we know that this data, and the other data we have around other sites that collect data heavily, such as Facebook, exists out there on the web, we will probably want to defend it from “the criminal” or “unauthorised use”. Who are these criminals and unauthorised users? Well, sometimes it’s your own government, sometimes it’s the sites you use every day, and sometimes it’s just regular shady hackers (not the pretend Russian kind). Attacks of all kinds are happening all the time. This is the purpose of utilising cybersecurity technologies, we hope that we can be protected by whatever malicious acts may compromise our data and privacy.
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The technologies we use everyday can be deceptively safe, many are collecting your data which is usually something you have agreed to when signing up to use them. Some technologies, like Apple's Mac operating system and phone operating systems, have been subject to the myth of being invulnerable to viruses. Other technologies have claimed to provide encryption, only to have the data compromised later such as in the case of Snapchat, and WhatsApp’s encrypted messaging. Even medical equipment can be subject to security vulnerabilities.

Vulnerabilities in IT systems today can have a massive effect on our everyday lives and security. IT systems run pretty much everything, and vulnerabilities can bring down entire nations via compromised information and attacked services, such as water and power grids. The Australian Government has made cyber warfare one of its top priorities because of this. Keeping the country and it’s people safe is no longer just about securing the borders and surrounding oceans. It’s now also about making sure that our information is safe from the wrong eyes and our water supply continues to flow uninterrupted.

Recently, freedom of speech has been under constant threat, and recently this has lead to more and more people taking greater interest in what they say being taken out of context by others, such as what happened to the world's largest YouTube start when fake news outlets took him out of context and branded him an anti-semite. Larger tech companies have been disappointing users recently in this regard. YouTube has recently attempted to unleash the ‘Heroes’ program that would allow people to flag and remove comments which are deemed inappropriate. The announcement video is one of the most disliked videos of all time. Google has also announced its ‘Perspective API’, an AI that can find and remove ‘offensive’ comments from a website. One way to defend against this is to be sure that only those who are supposed to see what you have written will see it, and you can achieve this by using encryption, such as that offered by apps like GData or Telegram. Free Speech, and also your ability to have private conversations, is a right, and as such you should make sure to permit yourself that liberty whenever you can. To counteract the constant data mining and other creepy antics of Facebook, you could use a social media platform such as Diaspora, which allows you to host your own data that users then connect to. A way to ensure the data remains yours (unless stolen of course).

A common technique used for file security is the Secure Hash Algorithm, also known as SHA. Usually, it’s used by generating a hash key, which is a unique string of integers and characters generated based on the file's contents. The resulting hash key is told to the recipient of the file who can then check the file themselves to ensure that they can also generate the same hash from the file, thus confirming its contents are genuine. The most common form of SHA is SHA1, used notably for file and website certificate hashing, but has recently been proven to be insecure by researchers at Google. Because of this, the implications could mean people being subject to compromised files or false assertions of secure socket layer enabled sites. The latter meaning that the client's connection to such a website may no longer be encrypted and is subject to interception where the data sent and received between the client and the server could be stolen or manipulated. If left unchecked and unadopted by administrators, everyone is at risk by vulnerabilities such as this, and unless you keep up to date, or at least do a little research on the products you use, you could be under threat without knowing it.

In the near future, Artificial Intelligence solutions could head the way for Encryption and security, we are able to use Machine Learning algorithms to train an AI to find threats and deal with them. These technologies could even be bolstered by new breakthroughs in AI, such as the BrainChip Snap processor, being developed and built here in Perth Western Australia, which could allow for much faster Machine learning on a hardware silicon chip.

Microsoft Azure provides Computing, Networking, and Storage security solutions that really leaves businesses with few excuses for not having proper cloud infrastructure in place. A common reason that some companies are hesitant to go to the cloud is that they believe data is more secure on premises, however, there are definitely more people who have the ability to smash a window and walk out with your hard drives than there are people who can break Microsoft's Encryption at rest system. Some companies and organisations require data to be kept within sovereign borders, however Azure and Amazon Web Services both allow you to specify where you want to keep your data. Antimalware protection for Microsoft and third parties is also available now in Azure, adding to the protection arsenal for your data.

It’s up to you to ensure you do proper research before using the platforms you think you know and are safe, and it’s your responsibility to use platforms that protect you, your data, and your freedom.


[As written by one of our Technical Consultants]