Kumar Ritesh speaking
Kumar Ritesh in discussion with Bobby Kothari
The Inspiration Series, a platform organized by Palanpur Online and Palanpur Samaj Kendra, held a talk on August 1, 2018, delivered by cyber security expert Kumar Ritesh, Chairman & CEO of CYFIRMA, a Singapore-based company set up by Antuit Holdings, an analytics company.
Ritesh, who has a wide experience of the digital world, and has headed the cyber security teams of various top-notch companies including BHP Billiton, IBM, and even worked with some government agencies, gave a fascinating talk on an area few of us are familiar with; but, it seems, all of us are potential victims of the darker elements lurking there.
“In the modern world, there are only two possibilities,” Ritesh started in a chilling painting of the scenario. “Either you have been hacked; or you don’t know you have been hacked.”
According to him, the cyber microcosm that most of us are familiar with, and inhabit, is like the tip of an iceberg. Under that is an entire dark netherworld populated with hackers and markets, where information can be bought and sold; where every kind of sophisticated manipulation of the digital platform is possible.
The threat comes from a variety of sources and can be at different levels, ranging from the purely mischievous amateur hackings; to individuals seeking to make some money via phishing (getting targets to pay money for seemingly legitimate reasons) or ransomware (where, to put it simplistically, systems are locked down by the introduction of a virus, and money is demanded to restore them); to organised crime who collect data on individuals to sell for social or political purposes; to what he terms as state level Advanced Persistent Threats. Why, you can even be the victim of your own disgruntled employees.
Ritesh made some significant points: the development of technology has meant that the surface of potential attack has increased significantly; the losses resulting from cyber-attacks are poised to grow dramatically – 3.5 times by 2020, to an estimated US$ 2.1 trillion, from the US$ 600 billion calculated as losses in 2016. Also, importantly, hacking is a common tool used in the corporate and political scenario today. So much so, that governments (across the globe) account for over 80% of all hacking activities.
Not surprisingly, “Diamonds are a Hacker’s Best Friend”, feels Ritesh. He outlined the reasons for the gems and jewellery industry being particularly vulnerable, including the perception of this section having deep pockets; and a relatively low awareness and knowledge of the cyber world by the overwhelming majority of players.
He proceeded to provide several examples of companies in this industry who had suffered monetary losses as a result of such attacks, which included big names like Tiffany’s, Pandora and WalMart.
How does one protect oneself then? Ritesh made it amply clear that installing an anti-virus programme, or using password protected devices, is simply not sufficient.
Ritesh prescribed the use of a combination of processes and technology to stay ahead of the curve – or the chase – on this one. And above all to be continuously alert and maintain a constant vigil.
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