“CyberSTAR helped me to see that that really basic things you do for your digital safety can make a huge difference,” says Sanzhar1 the director of a small civil society organization (CSO) in Central Asia who had just had his laptop stolen. What could have been an unmitigated disaster – a director’s laptop falling into unfriendly hands – became just an inconvenience and replacement expense, thanks to the digital safety assistance and training that Sanzhar’s organization had received from CyberSTAR.
One afternoon in November 2018, Sanzhar closed his MacBook and walked out of his office in Kazakhstan for a quick smoke. The day had begun early and was very stressful for Sanzhar, as his organization was organizing an important media conference.
When Sanzhar returned five minutes later, his laptop was gone. Footage from security cameras revealed that his MacBook was stolen by an unknown man who entered the office as soon as Sanzhar left. Police soon arrived, but said the footage from the security cameras would not help to get the laptop back.
“Having my laptop stolen could have had terrible consequences for me, my organization and many other people that we worked with,” says Sanzhar. “I used the laptop to store sensitive and confidential files, including data on our partner organizations and the passwords to all our email and social media accounts. If this data fell into the wrong hands, it would have been a catastrophe!”
Training and technical support
For Sanzhar, disaster was averted due to the training and technical support his organization had received through the CyberSTAR project. Like many other smaller CSOs in Central Asia, Sanzhar’s organization, and all of his staff, received tailor-made technical assistance to help them safe-guard their devices, accounts, data, communications and networks from loss or harm. And all the staff, including Sanzhar, received training in basic digital hygiene.
As part of this assistance, the CyberSTAR team had helped Sanzhar to set up strong locks on his laptop so that a thief would not be able to access his data, as well as automatic data back-up on all devices used by the organization.
As a result of Sanzhar’s new expertise in digital safety, all the information on his laptop was safe. The thieves were not able to access data stored on its hard drive, and because the data was backed-up, it took him only a couple of hours to restore it.
“The digital world in which we find ourselves is full of dangers,” says Sanzhar. “The key to surviving is to be aware of the various risks and to know how to deal with them.”
He adds: “Knowing that all my information, correspondence and accounts are protected against the most frequent threats is empowering”.