Cryptocurrencies, Dark Web & Fake News: Exclusive Interview With Senior Security Advisor From Sophos

Cryptocurrencies, Dark Web & Fake News
Cryptocurrencies, Dark Web & Fake News

The problem of fake news has engulfed India, and everyone from Govt. to messenger apps are trying out different strategies to counter it. How can it be stopped?

What will be the future of crypto-currencies in India?

Is dark web immoral and dangerous?

Recently, we caught up with John Shier, who is the Senior Security Advisor at Sophos Global, and asked his views on these burning issues.

Here are the excerpts from the interview:


Question #1: Cryptocurrency is illegal in India right now. Indian Govt. claims that people are losing their hard earned money by crypto investments. Should this stand change?

It’s not for me to comment on financial policy decisions for governments. Each country must decide for itself whether or not cryptocurrencies are legitimate financial instruments. That being said, due to the highly volatile nature of cryptocurrencies people should only invest in them if they have all the facts and are doing so with eyes wide open.

Question #2: Fake news is a big problem in India. People are getting lynched due to fake news circulated on WhatsApp and other apps. How to deal with this situation, using technology?

As devastating as it is to hear people are losing their lives due to fake news, there’s no single technology that can get rid of it. Fake news and propaganda has been around since ancient times. The difference now is that we have a much easier and faster way of spreading it. One of the biggest drivers behind fake news are the people who propagate it. Not all news will fit nicely with everyone’s world view and people need to be able to put aside their biases, think critically and unemotionally when reading and sharing news today.

Question #3: Digital India is no doubt a boon. But recently, scams and frauds using UPI, mobile wallets and online banking have increased. People are losing their life’s earning within 60 seconds. What can Govt. do to stop this?

Stopping this in part comes down to education. People need to know what the scams are and how they manifest themselves. The other side is that governments need the prosecutorial power to go after cybercriminals and also work with financial institutions to hopefully restore people’s wealth whenever possible.

Question #4: Daily, millions of Indians are accessing the Internet for the first time. What are the basic precautions which need to be taken by them to avoid frauds and scams?

While it’s great that many more people today are able to access the internet and everything it can offer, it can understandably have a negative impact on many who are not used to some of the more common but well executed scams. This is a difficult question to answer due to the many potential scams and frauds out there. The most basic piece of advice is, “Trust but verify.” For example, if you get an email saying you unexpectedly owe money to your mobile provider, instead of clicking on the link in the email, call them using the publicly available phone number on their website. This way you’re able to verify whether the additional charges are legitimate or not. If they’re not, you are also playing a part in helping the company identify an active fraud campaign against their brand. In the end though, if it seems too good to be true, it is!

Question #5: What is the future of Cyber Security, as an industry? Will it evolve as an outsourcing industry like call centers or more of an in-house arrangement, (talking about the next 10 years)

This is really difficult to judge since every company has different requirements and capabilities. Some companies will choose to outsource their security needs to competent third parties while others will prefer to keep things in-house. At Sophos we will continue to provide both sides (and everyone in between) with the tools they need to protect themselves against today’s and tomorrow’s threats in a simple and intuitive way.

Question #6: Hackers behind Ransomware have extorted millions of dollars from businesses, all over the world. Why can’t Governments from around the world stop this menace?

It’s not solely the government’s job to stop the spread of ransomware and for that matter all malware. It takes a coordinated effort. When companies build solid security foundations cyberattacks are much more difficult to pull off. When the users make security part of their everyday lives cybercriminals do get frustrated. The security industry is providing tools to fight this menace and all manner of threats daily. Where governments can help is by making laws that prohibit cybercriminal activity and using its power for investigative and prosecutorial purposes. It’s when we all work together that we have the biggest impact.

Question #7: Deep, dark web is the Wild Wild West of the Internet, with no rules or morals. In the next 10 years, how will Deep Web impact globalization or services? Will it ever become mainstream?

There will always be deep dark corners of the internet but it’s important to remember that not everything that goes on in the dark web is immoral or illegal. Security and privacy will always be a priority for many people therefore networks such as those represented by the dark web (TOR) will be an attractive option. As more of our daily communication becomes encrypted the security aspect is getting better but anonymity will forever be a challenge.

Question #8: What has been your biggest hack, ever?

In my opinion, the term hacker is very broad and doesn’t just apply to the world of computers. Whenever you take something apart to understand how it works or make it do something it wasn’t intended to, you’re a hacker. When I was younger I remember playing around with electronic components, specifically resistors, and making makeshift firecrackers by using pressure switches and too much current. Quite a surprise for anyone who came across one! As I’ve gotten older and taken on many home renovation projects, the hacker mindset is always there to help me solve problems and build things that aren’t always obvious given the available materials.

Question #9: What is the biggest challenge faced by Sophos, when it comes to detecting and stopping viruses, malware, ransomware, and other hacking tools?

To be honest, the biggest challenge comes from environments that are poorly managed. Environments with older systems, unpatched hardware or software and shadow IT, to name three, are a particular challenge for any business. These three things contribute greatly to increasing a network’s attack surface and reducing the overall security of the entire environment. A single unpatched system can be responsible for thousands of alerts per day against well protected systems. Thankfully our latest tools can provide companies of every size with greater visibility into their environment and protection against all sorts of known and never before seen threats.

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