The Internet is an irresistible platform to find information about products, people, places, services, jobs, etc. Nevertheless, it has been said time and time again that you are never truly safe on the Internet. Well, it’s true ... and you will never be totally safe. Roland Abi Najem, an IT Expert and lecturer at various universities and institutions in Lebanon, offers us tips and advice on how to be more secure on the world wide web and increase our awareness and knowledge on certain points regarding internet security and online surfing/shopping.
Can you define Online Security for our readers?
Online Security has many meanings, but we will try to define it in a simple way. “Online” means the moment you are connected to the Internet, you are online. Regardless whether you open a browser or any social media platform, or you check an email with Outlook or any other application, you are online. So whenever you are connected to the Internet, you are NOT secure anymore. When we are talking about business and telecom, we use the term Security to check if our private data is secure where no one can access the data. When we are talking about social media, we talk more about privacy instead of security since people are afraid that all their actions online (check in) or photos, videos, and data that they intend to share with friends only, would become public for all people. We also cannot ignore mobile security since now we are talking about smart phone devices that are connected to the Internet all the time - and all smart phones contain valuable information.
How can someone be safe in the unsafe world of the Internet?
There is nothing called 100 % security in Internet world. All you can do is use the maximum precaution possible. In other words, if you want to be 100% safe, don’t use the Internet. I am saying this because sometimes it is not always the end user's mistake when it comes to safety, sometimes we have issues related to some platforms and companies - like what happened to some of the biggest companies (Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc) and to the biggest platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.) where they did admit that some security breach in their systems lead to hackers stealing valuable information.
How can one protect himself/herself from hackers?
On a personal level, there are many precautions that everyone should take into consideration for online behaviour:
· Create complex passwords and change them regularly.
· Be careful when opening any email, especially from unknown senders.
· Have a strong Antivirus and Firewall installed on your local PC.
· Do not download any attachment before checking the file type.
· Do not click on any external link before checking the link.
· Read continuous news and updated about latest security features since even if you are protected today, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will be tomorrow.
On a professional level, there is much more to worry about in terms of networking security, infrastructure, backup and disaster recovery, hosting security, cloud security, etc.
What are the most common mistakes people make online?
We can define the common mistakes as the following:
· People never read! They click on “Yes, I agree,” “Download,” and “Accept” without reading further information.
· Some people trust unknown resources.
· Some people don’t have online common sense on how to surf the web safely… there are lots of tools that can help.
· They do not value the risk of bad online behaviour.
Are there any secure websites for buying and shopping online?
Sure, there are many well known e-commerce websites that are very secure like amazon.com and ebay.com. But we have a main issue in Lebanon which is that most of these websites use Paypal as the payment method when Paypal is currently not available in the country. Note that it is always better to have an internet card with a limited amount to use online, and this is always to be on the safe side.
For businesses that have a large amount of data online, what are the risks? What advice can you offer businesses?
This is a very important question. The main issue here is that there’s a great risk to have to your data online, but nowadays, you MUST have online resources. The main advice to offer includes:
· Keep a backup copy of all data offline.
· Try to use encryption for all sensitive data.
· Try to use a secure channel of communication while accessing your data (VPN- Virtual Private Network Tunneling – HTTPS)
· Try to host your data at a reputable hosting company (Rackspace, Peer1, Amazon, Google)