A session at SXSW dealt with a lot of practical issues about your online security.

The poster boy for what a hacker can do was quite a famous person: billionaire Jeffrey Katzenberg, former Pres. of Production at Paramount where he was involved in the latest Star Trek movies. “When it comes to my online profile I’m actually pretty private about it.  I have a very small online presence and therefore didn’t think I was going to be a very good target for cybercrime.” For the purpose of this session, a hacker got easy access to his online information. Katzenberg was here to warn people how easy it is to have their identity stolen.

Jeffrey Katzenberg

Cybersecurity innovator Hari Ravichandran was the cyber expert on hand to give some sage advice to the audience. With his company AURA, Hari is bringing together “under one umbrella” a suite of tools that will be “very accessible for regular folks and families. Here is an important thing: when we started looking at these things and how people solved them, it looked like fire alarms to me. You get a fire in your home, you get an alert, then send the fire truck over to get rid of the fire; what we thought would be a whole lot better would be can you stop the fire from happening in the first place? Can you have a proactive solution that prevents a lot of these issues from starting up before you end up being a victim?”

Hari said “It’s shocking to me how much data is out there and how accessible it is. You can go to one of these darkened sites on the internet and buy a package, almost like a menu card, where you can say I want to buy half a million identities. You can go pick up a bunch of credit card numbers. Both the liquidity and accessibility of the information is shocking. It’s no longer something people are doing to impress their hacker buddies – this is a criminal enterprise. It looks to keep accelerating and that, to me, is scary.”

He identified 5 main things you must do to stay safe:

  1. Reusing passwords on multiple accounts is one of the biggest security loopholes. You have to think of the blast radius around you, because when your information gets hacked, all the people you know are included in that stolen data.
  2. Updating your security software is essential. It’s the sort of thing nobody wants to do because you have to take your computer down.
  3. If you get a breach notice don’t wait until the end of the month to look at your credit card statement. Same thing with freezing or locking your credit.
  4. Parental controls: make sure you put something in place. Kids are so impressionable and they just don’t know any better. You could be outing your own data at risk by not having some form of protection.
  5. You have to take control over your own information. For example, limit the number of people who have your driver license or social security numbers. Reduce that sphere down to a very few trusted vendors. If I said in the physical world I was going to borrow your car but I’m not going to return it for a while, you would take that quite seriously. But the same individuals will go online and give up a whole of information without even thinking about it.

    Hari Ravichandran at SXSW



By Dr. Cliff Cunningham

Dr. Cliff Cunningham is a planetary scientist, the acknowledged expert on the 19th century study of asteroids. He is a Research Fellow at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia. He serves as Editor of the History & Cultural Astronomy book series published by Springer; and Associate Editor of the Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage. Asteroid 4276 in space was named in his honour by the International Astronomical Union based in the recommendation of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Dr. Cunningham has written or edited 15 books.

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