By: Amal Hashim – Social Development and Policy Major 2020
TechPen’s latest talk – “Do We Need to Make Our Cyber Connections More Secure Than Before?” by Shahmeer Amir – was an overwhelmingly engaging and interesting talk. The audience was enamored by the speaker who in turn answered all the questions and queries of the audience properly and in terms they could understand. The talk itself stayed on the same pattern with Shahmeer Amir, world-renowned ethical hacker and now researcher into cyber security systems, making sure that the information he was giving out was correct and up-to-date.
The talk was an eye-opener for the common people who had as yet been unaware of the possibilities and importance of cyber security. Shahmeer talked about Stuxnet, a virus used by the US Government to hack into Iran’s nuclear database. Using that as a basis, he went on to elaborate on the topic of how physical weapons could be controlled via computer software systems and how dangerous this was to governments and economies.
A standing out point was the cheap cost of these viruses/computer programs – Stuxnet cost $100 million whereas the cheapest physical weapon cost $1.01 billion. And the cost is still decreasing as newer software is developed. At such a low cost, Shahmeer questioned, why would governments want to spend billions on physical weapons which are in danger of being hacked into or controlled by enemy governments or individuals while the computer software works faster, too?
What most of us might never have known before this talk with Shahmeer was that a phenomenon called social engineering is also part of the attacks on cyber security and your individual privacy and security while online. Shahmeer explained that social engineering meant “the art of deceiving the human mind into revealing sensitive information to an unauthorized individual” and included, for the lack of a better, global example, unknown numbers and messages we all receive saying that we’ve won this much in a lucky draw or that someone needs this much money urgently for an emergency. Your answer or follow up of those messages would instantly reveal to the sender all your details.
The talk was enjoyed by everyone in the audience who really appreciated such a knowledgeable and experienced person talking about a field left completely unexplored in Pakistan.