2021: New beginnings in digital security

2021 was an important year for us because we did a lot of new things. Over this short year end catch up on digital security, we’ll walk you through what we did, our achievements and disappointments, and more importantly what we learned and our path ahead in 2022.

30 December, 2021
4 min read

With our continuing reliance on digital technologies, any rights based work today requires increased focus on cyber security. We are surrounded by threats, bad security practices and vulnerabilities.

Here, IFF made a new beginning last year. We conducted our first in-person digital security (digisec) workshop with Anoop Bidikar, concluded our pilot year-long digisec training with Saptak Sengupta, launched Cybersec Charcha, and even made videos in Hindi. We have learned a lot from our successes and failures over 2021. Over this short year-end catch up, we’ll walk you through what we did, our achievements and disappointments, and more importantly what we learned and our path ahead in 2022.

Basic digital security workshops

Oftentimes, organisations approach us looking for an introduction to digital security and a primer on basic hygiene practices they must follow in their everyday lives. This year we started conducting workshops spanning 1-2 days based on an organisation’s needs. These are basic 2-3 day workshops that give participants an introduction to digital security, seek advice on how they can frame their organisational digital security policies depending on their needs and what they can do in their lives to amp up their personal security. We conducted a total of 8 such workshops in 2021. Our trainers for these workshops this year were Saptak Sengupta, Anoop Bidikar and Shivani Singh.

Advanced digital security training

As digital security threats become sophisticated, more and more people are considering their organisational and personal digital security more seriously. We conducted a total of 3 trainings, coming up to 24 workshops in 2021. Our trainers for these workshops were Saptak Sengupta and Anoop Bidikar.  The aim of our Advanced training curriculum is to start from the basics of digital security and move on to more complex concepts and practices. All this is done with the aim of bringing about a behavioural shift in the trainees’ approach to their everyday digital hygiene. The advanced digisec trainings are long term and in-depth workshops that train the attendees in the basics and the more advanced digital security concepts based on their threat models. These can be online or in-person with a focus on bringing about a cultural shift in an organisation’s approach to the security of their digital assets.

Launch of Cybersec Charcha: A digital security newsletter

In April 2021, we launched Cybersec Charcha, IFF’s monthly digital security update. It is a cybersecurity newsletter with a round-up of the latest developments in the domain of digital security. The goal of this monthly newsletter was to open a conversation about digital security and understand why this is an important issue for you to actively start engaging with regularly. We covered everything from nation-states engaging in cybercrime to ransomware attacks costing companies $300 million in lost revenue to covering the basic digisec hygiene practices everyone must follow and sent a total of 6 editions of Cybersec Charcha in 2021.

Digital Security in Hindi

Over the past few years, we have realised the need to make digital security resources accessible in different languages. Since we already have in-house capacity for Hindi speaking staffers, it was the first language we started with. In addition to creating digital security workshops, training, and Cybersec Charcha, we also dabbled in creating digisec resources in Hindi. This included simple, easy to follow videos on different digital security concepts like 2 Factor Authentication and breaking down complex current affairs related topics around digital security like WhatsApp’s Privacy Policy. In addition to videos, we also hosted basic digital security workshops and webinars in Hindi with organisations like Jan Sarokar to reach more people with our work and the prevailing cybersecurity issues in India and around the world.

Challenges in 2021

Whereas 2021 was a year of many milestones for IFF’s nascent digital security vertical, there were also targets we didn’t meet that we set for ourselves at the start of the year. We discovered some challenges along the way that we didn’t foresee.

Towards the start of the year, when the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India hit, it impacted our plans to conduct more in-person training for people who could not participate in online training due to connectivity issues and lack of reliable internet access. Our goal was to conduct at least 3 such advanced offline digital security training. However, due to safety concerns for the participants and trainers, we were able to conduct 1 such workshop. This workshop was a big learning experience and showed us the limitations and benefits of both online and offline training and how we can work towards resolving these challenges in 2022.

As we met and trained more people, we also realised that we needed to create curriculum and resource materials in an accessible manner by breaking down complex digital security terms into simple concepts using everyday analogies. This also has to be done in different languages if we want to make digital security more accessible in 2022.

Way forward

2022 will be an important year for us as we take on more advanced trainings and reach more organisations with our basic digisec workshops as well. It will also be crucial for us to create resource materials in more languages and for wider circulation so that the work on digital security can reach more people and create more public awareness around this. If the Covid-19 situation in India in 2022 makes it safer for people to gather in spaces, our goal is to conduct 7 in-person training in addition to advanced training and basic workshops conducted online.

2021 has taught us that despite challenges, it is important to continue the work and find alternate ways of overcoming hurdles as we pivot towards another new year. Our hope from 2022 is to take existing learnings and make a bigger impact from our digital security work in the coming year.

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