“Cyber-attacks are like natural disasters. There is no way to prevent a hurricane from hitting your city, but you can certainly prepare for it.”

Cyberspace is a place where morality is vague where crime, theft, exploitation, and most importantly, Deception goes unnoticed, unbeknownst, and unaccounted for. Let’s be honest; we live in a digital age. Our professional, personal, and financial lives have all begun to gravitate toward the world of the internet, mobile computing, and electronic media. Unfortunately, given the widespread of this phenomenon, we are more vulnerable than ever to malicious attacks, invasions of privacy, fraud, and other such hassles. That is why cybersecurity is such an essential component of a secure and well-organized digital world, and “DECEPTION” was an initiative organized by the Rotaract Club of University of Colombo, Faculty of Management and Finance, in order to spread awareness on the importance of cybersecurity and relevant precautions in protecting us from hackers, cybercriminals, and other fraudsters.

The project was conducted as a series of three virtual sessions covering different aspects of cybersecurity.

The first session of project Deception was held on the 17th of September 2021, with over 200 participants, and with Mr Hans Billimoria as our guest speaker. He is a part of The Grassrooted Trust. He spoke on cyber exploitation and the steps that we can take in order to make sure that we are safe in cyber-space. Mr.Billimoria started off by showing that “The internet penetration in Sri Lanka increases by 10-12% each year”, and through the statistics pointed out that when you do absolutely everything online, does not it make sense to stay safe over there. With many exciting questions flowing in during the Q&A session, one question that particularly caught our attention was:

“Is it just paranoia, or is there a real risk of someone watching us through the cameras in our phones and laptops, and if so, is there a way to avoid that?”

Mr Billimoria answered that, in some cases, if a hacker gains remote access to your computer, accessing your webcam is one of the many things that a hacker will do. He recommended using a camera cover as a solution to this problem.

The Q&A session was followed by the participants taking part in a quiz that contained various questions regarding cyber-security, and the lucky winner was Rtr. Malinka Singarachchi, and she was gifted with a box of brownies. One of the main outcomes of our first session was that the host for the day Rtr.Gimhan was able to build quite a fanbase through his moderating skills because we received much feedback.

The second session of Deception was held on the 29th of October 2021, and the speaker for our second session was Mr.Lasantha Priyankara. He enlightened the audience not on a “hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy”, but on a “university student’s guide to cybersecurity”. His presentation was so interesting, and it mainly focused on three important points on what could be done to be cyber-safe:

Under these three topics, he educated the audience on many important areas such as how to identify phishing emails, by using one of his own experiences of being deceived by a mail that was built to look exactly like an original PayPal mail, and this helped us in understanding the points more. After narrating his personal experience, he also mentioned that as a security administrator myself  I have to admit that it is quite embarrassing that I also fell for that trap, but the familiarity of the mail did not make me doubt the clarity of it, and the next victim can be YOU!”.

The second session was concluded with the announcement of the winners of “Hacked or Not”, which was a scenario-based quiz in which the competitors had to use their creativity and knowledge on cyber security in answering questions, and amidst some tough competition, we were able to pick two winners: Rtr.PP Himantha Alahakoon and Rtr.Yushen Kithulgoda and both received exciting gifts from our gift partners H&R collection and Kreme&Krumbs.

Both Mr.Billimoria and Mr.Priyankara ended their sessions by mentioning that the legal body we need to contact in any situation of a cyber breach is CERT Sri Lanka.

Therefore for the third and final session of the project, we invited Ms Paramee Kulangana, an information security analyst at CERT Sri Lanka, and the session was held on the 29th of January 2022.

Ms. Kulangana started off with the history of CERT Sri Lanka and went on to meticulously explain to us what services are offered by the CERT, the process of reporting any incident, what kind of incidents can be reported and also mentioned a few incidents that had occurred through the past couple of months which gave the participants a thorough understanding as to how they can use the services provided by CERT. Later into the session, it also felt like she was giving us relationship advice because she never failed to mention all the dos and don’ts of sharing pictures, videos and other sensitive information online when in a relationship, which was the part our audience was more engrossed with. Following this was a Q&A session, through which Ms Kulangana was able to clear out the doubts of many of our participants. With this, we wrapped up the third and final session of Deception.

Rtr.Gimhan, our host for all three sessions, then concluded the day by saying, “if there is at least one person, who took something home, and in turn, saved themselves from an otherwise unavoidable stroke of misfortune, that is more than enough for us to call this a success. It has truly been one heck of a ride. We want to thank everyone who was with us from the beginning to the bittersweet end of it.” 

Accordingly, project Deception successfully served the project goal to spread awareness on the importance of cyber security and the relevant precautions to be taken to protect yourself from cyber threats. In short, by the end of the day, we made sure that you did your part to be security smart.

Written By:-
Rtr. Melisha Gonaduwa
(Member 2021-22)

Written By:-
Rtr. Vishvi
(Member 2021-22)

Edited By:-
Rtr. Githma De Silva
(Blog Team Member 2021-22)

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