Cyber risk increases along with rising trend of webinars

Kathmandu, May 5

The trend of working from home has increased tremendously in the country during the lockdown period. With the nationwide lockdown in place, internet usage has also surged by 50 per cent as compared to normal times. And the trend of holding video conferences, meetings and online classes has surged significantly.

But this increasing practice of utilising digital platforms has also given rise to various cyber risks.

In recent times, webinars are being targeted by spammers with the sole intention of disturbing the sessions. For instance, Girls In Tech had organised a webinar on April 26 through Google Meet application.

During a session they found that a spammer was creating disturbances. However, they continued with the session by removing the spammer.

On April 29, Girls In Tech terminated its webinar after an anonymous user was detected disturbing its session. “We tried to track the spammers but they are a group of people and we were unable to track all of their addresses.

So we dropped that session,” said Astha Sharma, managing director of Girls In Tech - Nepal.

Thereafter issuing a statement on May 3, Anjani Phuyal, CEO of Genese Cloud Academy and founder of Girls In Tech - Nepal, shared, “After we faced such disturbances, we tracked down some users through their e-mails and we came to know they were doing it in an organised way.”

According to him, spammers have formed a private Facebook group to track down webinars being conducted in the country and abroad. And as soon as the webinars begin, they start creating disturbances through spams.

In another incident, a session being hosted by Robotics Association of Nepal on April 27 also faced problems due to spams. As per the statement, a few spammers posted vulgar comments in the chat thread of the session’s live video. On the same day, Nxt- Gen, a non-profit organisation under Pulchowk Engineering Campus, also faced a similar problem. During the online session, the organisers noticed that some participants were using fake e-mail addresses thus violating cybersecurity laws. However, Nxt- Gen was able to immediately fix the security issue on its platform that the spammers were exploiting and promptly began working with law enforcement agencies.

As the spammers were found to be college students who didn’t know about the consequences of such activities they were let off with a warning, Phuyal added.

Meanwhile, Sachin Thakuri, a cyber security expert, mentioned that users usually are not aware about cyber security. “Due to the lockdown, there has been a surge in number of virtual official meetings and online classes but the people organising them do not have proper knowledge of cyber security,” he said, adding that cyber risk is increasing due to lack of awareness among general users and anyone can easily enter such webinars if proper security measures are not adopted.

Previously, before the lockdown, only corporate houses were organising virtual meetings and that too in rare instances, however, such meetings have become popular these days. As a result, security vulnerability and threat on privacy have increased.

“It’s true that monitoring and regulation are needed but people also need to have knowledge about digital platforms,” Thakuri said, adding, digital awareness must be a priority among internet users in the coming days.

Lok Raj Sharma, information officer at the Department of Information Technology, claimed that the government is aware about increasing cyber risk, especially during the lockdown period.

“Nobody was prepared for this coronavirus impact,” he said, “All of a sudden the lockdown was imposed to prevent the virus from spreading and all regular activities were halted due to which internet usage increased.”

Sharma added that the government has to come up with longterm solutions by learning from the current situation. “We have realised the need for our own digital platforms,” he said. “When we use platforms like Zoom, Skype and Messenger, our data is transferred outside the country which has threatened our privacy.”

He further said that the government is interested in working with entrepreneurs who want to develop digital platforms. “And to regulate cybercrimes we have prepared an IT Bill which is currently stuck in the Parliament due to several reasons,” Sharma said.

“For the moment the government cannot do anything else besides take action against the culprits based on the complaints.”

A version of this article appears in e-paper on May 6, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.