With the world’s attention focused on eliminating the threat of a global pandemic, some long-standing issues have become more prevalent. One such aspect, which we often conveniently ignore, is cybersecurity.

The increase in the number of devices and users, combined with the expanding deluge of sensitive data, emphasizes its importance. The growing volume of cyber attackers and their sophisticated attack techniques, especially during the pandemic, compound the dilemma further.

For the eighth edition of Newton Speaks, Rahul Tyagi, an expert in cybersecurity and the co-founder of Safe Security took us through some of his real-world encounters in dealing with cyber security breaches. With over a decade’s experience in dealing with cyber crime cells and Intelligence agencies across the country, he gave us an insight into his profession.

In the last decade, Rahul has been instrumental in helping large corporations globally to tackle one of the biggest challenges in cybersecurity - employee security. Not only has Rahul conducted development and training workshops for security and risk management leaders, but he has also helped them develop more cohesive security strategies for their respective organizations. Rahul is the key executive responsible for developing the SAFE Me platform which is a unique mobile-first approach to people security and awareness. With this app, Safe Security aims to re-engineer cyber consciousness for individuals. Rahul has been featured in Fortune Magazine’s 40-under-40 list for his contributions. He has delivered multiple keynotes on prestigious platforms such as Exhibition India Group, Security Watch India and TEDx, among many others. He believes ‘hacking is not just my job, it’s my lifestyle’.

Rahul Tyagi, an LPU alumnus, delivering a talk.

‘Metadata and Reconnaissance: The hacker’s gold mine’: Rahul emphasizes the vulnerable and sensitive assets available on the internet, as the root cause of data phishing and manipulation. Incidentally, he described a happenstance at the airport where he met a student and recognised his college by the facade of his carry bag. He comprehended his name as he sat beside the tutee on the aisle. He extracted sufficient information to view his Facebook timeline and spoke to him with unexpected conversational outcomes. For Rahul, it was just minutes before he could expose more specifics!

Even if a motivated criminal and a likely victim converge, we still need a third element for the crime to take place: a lack of vigilance over the criminal’s target. This means that an opportunity for crime is generated in a context that makes the victim vulnerable to attack while the delinquent is sufficiently safe. The main target groups are youngsters seeking acceptance and senior citizens who are unaware of the hoax ridden backdrop of the digital era. Rahul’s piece of advice for them is ‘appeal’- Nonetheless, one must notify relevant parties about any kind of breach.

UI of Kali Linux- An open-source model used for penetration testing.

Starting his career as a cybercrime investigator, Rahul is well acquainted with the criminal psychology behind phishing scams - what exactly makes the attacker tick.

It was alarming to know how easy cloning web pages, mass mailings, etc., have become, with the misuse of open-source distributions such as Kali Linux. Added to these is the unfortunate advantage of hidden URLs on handheld devices. Unsurprisingly, all it requires to steal your passwords to social media profiles (re-using passwords is a common fault) is a “FREE NETFLIX” clickbait!

Recurring ransomware threats push the need to safely store confidential data in digital memory. Rahul shared his experience of rethinking his cyber safety when he and his family contracted the coronavirus. He explained when ‘unpredictability and the new virtual normal are combined, concealed information demands utmost security’. He recommends using Sandboxie, a software that allocates encrypted memory on the hard disk.

The key takeaway from the session was knowing what SAFE Me, an application offered by Safe Securities Inc., entails. Rahul developed it in response to noticing the lack of awareness surrounding cyber security. The application focuses on three prime areas: dark web exposure, cybersecurity awareness and device security. Short video lessons on different aspects of cyber security are also available on the platform.

The SAFE Me application- ‘Predicting cyber-breaches in real-time’

When asked about the best advice he would give to budding entrepreneurs, Rahul recollected his college days, wherein he developed a habit of giving his 100% to every task assigned to him - big or small. He alludes to working at a start-up before launching a venture to learn the corporate culture and experience its potential highs and lows.

While cybersecurity continues to be Rahul’s passion, he is also exploring other technological areas. Throughout his career, he has inspired young people to take note of what it takes to rise as a prominent figure in a thriving, yet fiercely competitive industry, and continue to pass on its legacy to future generations.

Sneha Mary Biju and Aadarsh J