Foto: Usage worldwide

Is It Safe To Save Data Online?

By Mohd Hisham Abdul Rafar

SEREMBAN, May 25 (Bernama) -- The threat from the 'Wanncry' ransomware which has affected the world, including England, in its most recent attack, has caused many to question the safety of data stored online.

The cyber virus attack preys on governments or companies as well as individual internet users, causing them to lose information, sensitive and confidential data, whether temporarily or permanently, which results in the disruption of operations.

In a borderless world, the rapid flow of technology 'forces' people worldwide to celebrate its progress in all aspects of life and work, including the management of personal records or organisations via online.

Previously, the record management used the more conventional method of documenting via paper. However, we have now shifted to an electronic management system which is far more efficient and environment-friendly.

A senior lecturer at the Centre of Record Management Studies, Faculty of Information Management, at Universiti Teknologi MARA's (UiTM) Puncak Perdana campus, Shah Alam, Selangor, Mohd Nizam Yunus when commenting on the threat said that hacking currently posed the highest risk in record management.

"This cyber attack not only puts data and records at risk, but also forces victims to pay ransom for the release of their data from the hackers. This shows that data and records saved electronically are vulnerable as it can be easily invaded.

"We do not know if ransomware hackers merely lock data from being used or whether they have actually made copies of the data to their server for ill intentions," he told Bernama recently.

Meanwhile, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau was quoted to have said on May 18 that cyber attacks now could be assumed as high-level threats to the world and most of the virus came from porn sites, news and dubious links.

He added, following the trend, Malaysia needed to invest in the field of research and development (R&D), especially on cyber security, as the threat would continue to increase from time to time.

Further commenting, Mohd Nizam said the recent situation triggers fear among the public and they felt insecure in saving data or records electronically, which further worsened the situation, especially in the operation of an organisation.

Taking in the example of internet banking, he said people were beginning to feel vulnerable with the system and resulted in banks becoming congested.

"If people are afraid to use internet banking then banks will be overcrowded again like in the early days when there was no internet banking...and people had to line up at counters to withdraw money. Some may not want to save their money in banks as they know banks can also do the transactions online," he explained.

Mohd Nizam urged people (individual users and organisations) to do record management via online and increase safety features to lessen the risk of being hacked.

"Basically, items saved online are still secure. However, the conventional method is still needed as backup, in the instance our records are hacked by the ransomware," he added.

Meanwhile, another senior lecturer of the same faculty, Alwi Mohd Yunus said in the context of the safety of records online, if the antivirus and security 'firewall' system were constantly updated and the control procedures for electronic records were complied with, then the chances for the ransomeware or other virus attacks to invade were low.

Nevertheless, he stressed on the importance of the security issue which should not be underestimated.

"The National Archives of Malaysia (NAM) has issued a guideline and operating procedures for electronic records, in a structured or unstructured environment, from the findings of the electronic Archiving and Government Record System (e-SPARK) Committee that should be referred to and adopted by all government agencies in ensuring the security, public records and confidential government matters online.

"Among the main elements in the upkeep and security of public records comprising military and history records which the NAM has decreed should not be saved nor accessed through the main server," he said.

Thus, he urged those who wished to refer to historical materials to come to NAM as it was unavailable online unless the material did not affect national security.