Phani, thank you for the time you are dedicating today to get to know each other. You are known as the most famous Greek hacker. You declare yourself as a cybersecurity expert. Which of the two terms do you adopt more for yourself?
I prefer to be referred to as a Cybersecurity Expert. When I started dabbling in hacking as a hobby, I didn't have proper guidance to point out the misconceptions I had formed at that time. However, I do not regret how I started, and I do not feel displeased with the title of the most famous Greek hacker. I learned a lot from my mistakes and gained valuable experiences that proved useful and contributed to the growth of my company.
Did being a hacker get you into trouble with the law at some point, right? Do you want to tell us the story of your arrest and your encounter with Manolis Sfakianakis?
Nine years ago, on March 1, 2012, the Cybercrime Prosecution managed to locate all the members of our group and arrested me at the company where I was working at the time in Nafplio. No incriminating evidence was found for the "crimes" attributed to us. There was an order from the then Minister of Justice to arrest us. There is no evidence in the case file of what I actually did, as they could not find any electronic traces of my actions. The fact that I never touched any money helped me to remain silent today from behind bars. Whenever we discovered vulnerabilities, we would inform the administrators to fix them. It was during that time that I also met Mr. Manolis Sfakianakis.
Was your decision to start Audax Cybersecurity a result of this meeting with Manolis Sfakianakis?
After the end of my troubles with the authorities, I continued working as an employee for other companies. Encouraged by Mr. Sfakianakis himself, who saw my passion and abilities for what I was doing, I decided to start my own company, Audax Cybersecurity. Today marks the 7th anniversary of Audax Cybersecurity, which consists of eight individuals, besides myself, who possess specialized knowledge in the field and have a genuine passion for what they do.
How vulnerable are we ultimately through all this extensive use of technology?
The development and advancement of technology have brought about significant changes in human lifestyle. Technology constitutes the largest part of our lives, as it has become fully integrated into our daily routines. However, it is crucial to exercise caution regarding the websites we visit and the personal data we share on social media platforms.
We often hear the term darknet or dark web, but few people know what it is. What is it?
The Dark Web essentially consists of various websites that facilitate the trade and exchange of illegal goods, such as drugs, weapons, stolen items, and also contributes to the development of activities like prostitution. It is important to understand the inherent risks involved. Access to the Dark Web is relatively easy for anyone.
You've said that the internet is like a knife. You can cut bread or kill with it. Apart from its usefulness, what are its main dangers and what should one watch out for, especially parents of young children?
Parents, no matter how mature they consider their children to be, should show a particular interest in their electronic activities. Young children are not capable of understanding the malicious intentions of someone, nor are they able to protect themselves from them. A skilled hacker can gather information from them using seemingly insignificant details. Parents should be aware of their underage children's passwords to know if their child is in any danger at any given time. Furthermore, a parent should engage in conversations with their child about things that interest them and develop a "friendly" relationship, aiming to create a common code of communication. Numerous incidents stem from inadequate communication between guardians and teenagers.
Finally, something that I consider absolutely important, the parent must inform the teenager of the dangers that exist out there and stress that it is forbidden to publish personal data on the Internet.
In recent years, at the corporate level, there has been an improved understanding of information systems security and more and more companies are adopting security standards and related technologies to protect their data and that of their customers. Has your experience shown that these practices are finally working or not? Or to put it another way, are they sufficient?
Digital security companies implement a variety of techniques and ensure that the security of each business is in a satisfactory position. Without this protection from cybersecurity companies, businesses would be vulnerable to malicious attacks. It is crucial for every business to safeguard its own data as well as customer information. Without this protection, customers would not be able to entrust their personal information to any business. The security built around each organization is tailored to its specific needs and requirements.
At the level of private internet users, with the spread of social media, there is an overexposure of personal data, and even voluntarily. What are the risks involved in all this for everyone?
Excessive exposure to social networks increases the risks involved. It is difficult to ask a teenager to be cut off from social media , just as it is equally difficult for an adult. However, every individual must protect themselves from excessive exposure to them . In particular , it would be advisable not to post our location , our mobile phone number , our email address , our date of birth etc , because a hacker may have targeted us and through the material we post to collect appropriate information and gain access to our social media .
What advice do you give to parents regarding the use of the internet by underage children?
The parent is necessary to protect their children from the dangers of the internet and encourage them to engage in other activities. In the current era and prevailing circumstances, young people inevitably turn to the internet and dedicate many hours to it. Each parent, in addition to providing the necessary information to their child, is obligated to find other interests for them in order to cultivate their skills and broaden their horizons as adolescents. Dialogue among family members can contribute to avoiding various problems that may affect their child.
What exactly is Ethical Hacking?
Ethical Hacking is the various hacking techniques used for a good cause. In fact in order to be able to find security holes in a network and check if there is someone unwanted on our network we perform a series of hacking actions. This cannot be considered as a malicious attack since it is intended to deepen and fully secure the network always with the authorization of each company. The term hacking predisposes some people negatively when it is nothing but a multitude of techniques that contribute to fixing errors in one's system.
We always give our guests the opportunity to close our conversation as they wish. So how would you like to end our conversation today?
First of all, I would like to thank you for the opportunity you have given me today because some of the things that have been said today are particularly worth noting. However, I in turn would like to draw the attention of our readership , to the importance of healthy engagement with the internet and social media.
Citizens, especially young children, should be aware that the internet space is full of dangers and that some people's intentions are not good. All groups of people should learn to ask for help when they feel threatened in order to avoid many problems later on.
Εκεί έξω υπάρχει κόσμος που μπορεί να τους βοηθήσει ουσιαστικά.