Priscila Figueiredo and Louise Marie Hurel defend education as one of the ways to mitigate the risks of being exposed in the digital world.

In a debate of “Foro Inteligência” on Wednesday, the 13th of January 2021, the researchers Louise Marie Hurel, coordinator of projects in the area of cybersecurity and digital freedoms of the Igarape Institute, and Priscila Figueiredo, master in Digital Society Law by FGV made a emphatic stand pointing out the fragility of Brazil in coping with cybercrimes. “In terms of society and strategic vision on security, Brazil is not prepared”, said Louise Hurel, quoting the emblematic case of the invasion of the Supreme Court of Justice – STJ databases last November. For her, the episode showed that institutions and public administration lack the capacity to deal with these challenges. “It is not after the event that a specific committee should be established to deal with cyber incidents, but before. Unfortunately, we have learned through attacks”, said Louise.

For Priscila Figueiredo, the processes of digitization and increased connectivity, accelerated with the advent of the pandemic, have found people, companies and governments in varying degrees of maturity to manage risks related to information manipulation, collection of personal data, improper sharing of digital identities and attacks by cybercriminals. “In the private sector, these risks are tied to knowledge. People need to receive digital education, which is increasingly essential for awareness”, said Priscila during her presentation at the meeting, which had as theme the “Of Big Brother of digital identity and cybercrime”.

Digital identity has become, in Louise Hurel’s view, an easily obtained bargaining chip and there is no longer any way to reverse this process. “It is a condition for current data-based business models as well as kind of free pass for people to access services”. We are the ones who provide the raw material with personal data whenever we fill out, for example, a form to access a particular service or a particular platform at no cost. It’s our digital tracks that make all this gear spin”, said Hurel.

The voluntary exposure of privacy, often exchanged for convenience, like the use of technologies that capture biometric data and of personal assistants who access the individual’s particular routine, is seen by Priscila Figueiredo as another aggravating factor of risks. “This capture of information, that occurs when we feed it because of our vanity of exposure on social media, brings the loss of control over what we research and see in the digital world. Our stored data serves to direct and customize this window to the world we access, most of the time, from our smartphones”, she warned. According to her, users need to rethink their behavior in networks so as not to feed large corporations with sensible information that can be used by third parties for illicit or for untransparent purposes.

“The capture and sharing of digital identity bring risks to democracy, privacy, to the freedom to come and go, thought, of expression and meeting because of over-surveillance and monitoring. Data today is not only a way to exercise control or power, but also to manipulate masses and generate wealth”, said Priscila Figueiredo. The researcher recommends to “pierce the bubble”, not believing everything one reads and sees, but seeking other sources of information not to be manipulated; always question service providers, observing their cybersecurity practices to know if it is necessary to change services; and to act preventively, and not waiting for the state to protect rights. “The current parameters of the legislation are insufficient to address the illicit use of digital identities, they do not reach the magnitude of the electronic scope. The power of cybercrime is so exponential that the law has not been yet able to keep up, it is a challenge to be overcome”, she explained.

In the economic field, the researchers reported that there are a large number of companies, especially small and medium-sized that, in this crisis have to deal with data processing and management without the necessary technological resources. Louise Hurel warned that WhatsApp, being a central tool to the informal economy of the country, is the most intense target of attacks because it circulates a great number of sensitive data of financial transactions of the and using businesses created from the platform. “Cybercriminals will always exploit these vulnerabilities. There is a gap to be filled at the federal level, a cyber culture that needs to be created to address existing strategic and technical challenges”, she said.

About “Foro Inteligência”: It brings together the BRICS Policy Center, and Insight Communication with the support of the Institute of International Relations (IRI) of PUC-Rio and Casa de Afonso Arinos. The Foro will maintain an open channel with countries such as China, Russia, India and South Africa. The idea is to present lectures, courses and seminars addressing unconventional Brazilian problems that concern the nations of the bloc.