In a digital era where nothing is safe, cybersecurity becomes the most important skill everyone should possess

From the early age of five years old, Mr. Andreas Gavrielides was interested in computers. Burying himself in electronics, taking things apart and putting it back together, were the happiest moments of his day. Pursuing his passion for computer simulations and tutoring people, he earned a PhD in Materials Science and is now one of the trainers at DOREA Educational Institute – a non-profit organisation that offers high quality professional development Erasmus+ staff mobility training courses for Schools, HEI (Higher Education Institutions) teaching and admin staff, and staff working in Adult Education Centres from all over the Europe.

Mr. Gavrielides is a trainer for the Erasmus+ KA1 staff mobility training course “Cybersecurity Education for Online Safety”, which is one of the scheduled sessions that took place in Limassol, Cyprus. We talked with him about the latest course held in June and about cybersecurity in general.


What is cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is the means and knowledge you possess in order to protect yourself from many threats that are targeting your identity, private information and extracting everything you consider valuable. For example, bank account information, data documents, files,etc.


What is the training course “Cybersecurity Education for Online Safety” about?

In this course we learn what are the many ways someone can trick us and steal our information, how we can protect ourselves against threats and vulnerabilities and then pass that knowledge to others. A person should have the knowledge how her or his digital devices can be hacked and how unsafe connections can be. For example, on public WiFi never access your bank account, never allow unauthorized applications and e-mails to run, use VPN (Virtual Private Network) and install anti-virus software. This course also discusses the subject of cyber bullying, its differences from traditional bullying and how to fight it – mitigate and even eradicating it.


How important is, in today’s digital world, to know how to protect yourselves online?

I would say that cybersecurity is one of the most essential cyber skills you should have, along with opening a Word file. We are not allowed to be in this bubble where we think that the internet is safe place and nothing will harm us. We don’t have this kind of privilege anymore. We live in an era when nothing is safe and anything can be hacked, even a car. Cybersecurity also has social roots. It gives cyber etiquette, how to behave online, and I think it should be taught beginning in primary school.

What are the main risks companies face online?

There is a whole branch of coordinated attacks, like the attack on payrolls, medical documents of patients or financial records. Basically, every document that can be used to expose a company financially and to expose employees of the company. Extortion is also a very big threat. Another form is, when talking about forex companies, leaking whole directory of employees, accessing databases that hold all of the transactions made. Companies should use advanced solutions to protect their more valuable information by hiring teams of expert to fortify them and that can perform every six months or less “a penetration test”. It is a test that attacks your network and gives a report that shows what are your vulnerable points and what you should strengthen. It costs around 1000-95000 euros per test.


How about us, “little guys”, how much of a danger are we in?

We are not in the same danger as Microsoft or Microsoft employees, but we are still in danger. For example, our social media information, private data or as I say our “skeletons in a closet”, credit card information, e-mail accounts… That are some of the things that can be valuable to hackers. That is why, if you don’t want to lose your privacy, you should protect yourselves and apply a series of “obstacles” that can thwart those who want access to your sensitive information. Also, the use of backup and cloud for your most sensitive data is an extremely important measure offered for free in our days. Of course, there must be combination of methods in order to effectively protect yourselves something that is one of the main focus of the course.


In which way should we protect our digital identity?

Change your default settings on social media, don’t use simple passwords like “12345”, don’t share everything online or if you share it, always know who has access to that information. Use password managers – password managing software, put alerts that show if someone is accessing your accounts, be aware how strong your security on social media is and never share passwords over any platform that can be hacked. Cybersecurity is about being proactive against being reactive. Don’t let hackers gain access and then block them. Block them so they don’t have a chance to gain access.


The human factor is one of the biggest weaknesses in cybersecurity. How can it be lowered?

First and most important thing is education. I would add to that, continuous and updated education. Because, as we can see, every couple of months new technologies emerge. Either to protect you or to destroy you. Thus, education for cybersecurity should be continuous and updated with the latest threats. As if you would update your anti-virus software, so should you update your cybersecurity knowledge. Everyone should know cybersecurity – teachers, students, employers (and not just IT employers). It concerns all of us.


What is Internet of Things (IoT) and what should we know about it?

In a nutshell, the Internet of Things is the concept of connecting any device (so long as it has an on/off switch) to the Internet and to other connected devices. The IoT is a giant network of connected things and people – all of which collect and share data about the way they are used and about the environment around them. For example, smart speakers that you give instructions to and communicate back to you, smart light bulbs, smart desk lamps, Bluetooth locks etc. They are interactive in more than one way. IoT is any device that uses wireless connection to do much more than just download information. They are useful and can make our life much easier, but we should not rely completely on them. The more technology you put in your house, the more the risk you have to outside invasions. We should not be dependent on just technology, but we should always secure ourselves with the traditional sense of security.


How will 5G affect us?

5G is not applicable yet. Yes, 5G phones may exist, but the infrastructure for 5G is still under development. That being said, soon will we have networks like that. The benefit of 5G networks is much higher speed in every way possible from fast exchange of information to faster communication between devices. Not just on your phone, but the way different devices communicate with each other. We will have different networks in which much more devices could communicate with each other. This brings us large evolutions in, for example, self-driving cars, healthcare (telemedicine), IoT devices will be more popular – smart way of living, smart cooking… But benefits, of course, come with increased threats. For example, in 5G network, someone could gain access to a whole network of cars in a city. There are also health concerns – someone could get access to medical devices and could with a click of a mouse kill people. The good news is that we still have time to secure 5G networks something that many technology companies are concerned with and individual teams as well.


What have we lost, when talking about privacy, comparing with our parents or grandparents?

Generally speaking, we gained the ability to connect to everything and everyone. Facebook has become an innovation that helps you to find people you lost contact with or the ones who live very far from you. But we see that people now spend more times on their phone than in their actual life. We also now overshare our information. It can also be a bad thing because it can be the source of mental problems. For example, people post on Instagram pictures that show a “perfect, beautiful life” which are almost always false and fake. But some people don’t know that, and it can make us, “regular, boring people”, feel bad. Cyberbullying was born through the increased connectivity and is a much more threatening form than traditional bullying as it has most of the times, no face and can lead to the destruction of someone’s life. Social norms are harsh now and that’s why we have to have cyber-social education. When speaking about privacy, it depends on how much we share online. If you post every picture and thing you did online, you lost all your privacy and have surrendered yourself to the Web. So, to conclude, you don’t have to shut down all your devices now but use them smart and share things wisely.


Prepared by Iva Badanjak


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