SXSW 2023: Protecting your digital identity in cyber warfare

Avast 17 Mar 2023

Avast's presence at this year's SXSW focused on the balance between the exciting discoveries innovative technology brings with a world that has grown increasingly skeptical of the benefits of the digital revolution.

South by Southwest (SXSW) is one of our favorite events each year. Our team is always inspired by the variety of sessions and discussions with speakers and attendees who are driving change. At this year’s event, the Tech Track at SXSW focused on the balance between the exciting discoveries innovative technology brings with a world that has grown increasingly skeptical of the benefits of the digital revolution.  

Avast was proud to be part of this important discussion. Avast security ambassador and chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov and Gen Chief Technology Officer Michal Pechoucek led an interactive session titled “Protecting Your Digital Identity in Cyber Warfare” with over 100 tech enthusiasts in attendance.  

Discussing the collision of cyberspace and world politics 

There has always been a cat-and-mouse game between the cybersecurity industry and cybercriminals, and it isn’t any different with the use of AI. As cybercriminals use AI for their purposes, security professionals use AI to create defenses against their latest threats. 

In their session, Garry and Michal discussed the impact of world events, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, how both the cybersecurity industry and cybercriminals are using AI, and the rise in attacks targeting the vulnerability of people.  

“Cybercriminals always take advantage of current events, this is something we have been seeing for many years,” said Michal Pechouceck. “Looking back at the Covid-19 pandemic, right at the start we saw hundreds of new scams, including fake Covid trackers and health apps that were stealing people’s data, demanding ransom or harvesting people’s banking details. We also saw misleading online offerings of Covid medicines and cures. In February 2022, right at the beginning of the Ukraine war, we observed scammers tricking people out of money by pretending they are Ukrainians in desperate need of financial help.” 

They also went on to explain the significant rise in attacks targeting the human element. Michal said, "Nearly 70% of all the attacks are online scams and sophisticated phishing, smishing, and so on, so the new type of threats no longer attack vulnerability in an operating system, hardware, or networks, but instead, they’re attacking the vulnerability of people.” 
While this can sound scary, Michal and Garry believe there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the impact AI will have on the cybersecurity industry.  

Speaking about what’s on the horizon, Garry said, “I remain fairly optimistic about the future because we understand more and more about the nature of these machines. We can see that machines can do more and more, you know, they keep expanding territory, but still, there are certain elements they cannot conquer because they require human flexibility.” 

Garry continued to explain that with the massive developments in AI recently, people may develop fears. However, technology is agnostic, and AI also offers amazing new opportunities and helps cyber safety firms build better protection. By building technology that is helping people to make the right decisions, we’re ultimately helping people to be more resilient.

Both Garry and Michal truly believe that it’s a human’s digital right to be able to decide what’s true and what’s not. Furthermore, they believe that it’s the pledge of technology firms to provide the best possible technological advancements for people to be able to make those decisions. 

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