Ali Qamar is an Internet security research aficionado who relishes intensive research to unfold modern discoveries in the security industry. He entails rich experience of cyber security, online marketing, and web development and allied web based solutions. Ali is the founder and chief editor at SecurityGladiators.com, which is a spearhead source for cyber security news and related stuff. He also contributes to top notch security sites including Infosec Institute, Security Affairs and Cyber Defense Magazine. Ali shared his thoughts with Technology Times in an interview
Briefly tell us about yourself, your career highlights, and interests?
Ali Qamar: Im among few special cases where a student studied for whole academic years and did justice with the exams as well, but never bothered to get the degree in hand. I did bachelors in commerce but lost my bachelors degree due to a mess, and now, in simple words, you can call me a college drop-out if you were to count my degree.
As for career, I worked in private sectors for some time and also started local ventures – job was a decent one, as well as my local business was good too. But nothing among that made me satisfied, as I was already experimenting with online working stuff right from my Inter including running online businesses in form of an affiliate site.
After working hardly a year on local job and business, I switched to the cyber world for my career completely. Started working on freelancing sites where I worked on different projects handling various roles including project manager, content manager, tech writer and country manager for some well-known offshore businesses.
As I was working with others, I built my own Internet Marketing and Development firm on the contrary being SMHwebInc.com. I initially provided IM services there with a team of 20 freelancers, but then moved on building comparison and review sites as the idea of cold-selling wasn’t.
What was the idea behind launching securitygladiators.com; it is unprecedented attempt to aware masses about cyber security?
Cyber security was not my field until I was studying but it was of my great interest because I used to search for hacking and cracking tools and play with them every now and then, as most of the teens typically does (especially these days). Later on my way to building comparison/review sites, I built a VPN review site that took of really well.
As VPN (virtual private network) pretty much falls into the cyber security belt, my interest and knowledge (by researching and writing blogs) in the field grown like crazy every day. I realized cyber security is a really good cause to work on, and started learning ethical hacking and other security stuff for good online.
In the meantime, I already have had some exceptional connections being made with infosec leaders and secret sources leaking hacking news as it happen – right before the bell rings you can say. Finally, I sold out the VPN review site for $10,000+ to work only on cyber security and then SecurityGladiators.com was born and apart from just breaking Internet security news, I alongside my team started our mission to educate people on cyber security and aid them stay protected. And now, Security Gladiators feeds hundreds of “needy” minds a month.
Do you have any plans of extending the outreach of securitygladiators.com?
We plan to offer Information Security Training and IT Bootcamps under the name belt of Security Gladiators, and a dedicated team for that is already being built. It takes time to build the team you want! Id more likely be starting to offer some sort of online privacy and protection tool first online; I’m assuming it to be released this year or so.
What are the basic tools or techniques by virtue of which a layman can assure his cyber security, if he is not tech savvy?
Well, Id say cyber security isn’t that much hard that we’ve made it. There basically are some simple rules to follow, alongside making use of just a couple of tools. Now those rules are different for everyone, including for businesses, teens, parents and professionals.
But the basics that every need to stick are: they should keep their OS up to date, use a quality and up to date Antivirus, be thoughtful while visiting sites online and clicking on links or downloading, disable web tracking on their browsers, adjust their privacy settings on social profiles and make use of privacy tools like VPN or Tor to encrypt their traffic and be anonymous (hide their real IP online).
What are your views on much disputed Cybercrime Law draft that is in news for a while?
We probably can have a “huge” column debating on it I guess, as I personally am not been able to understand why its being draft in a way its drafted. What I can say briefly is, there’s no transparency in it and its literally going to kill the freedom of speech for all of us online.
All of the powers for blocking and restricting the content are going to be given to PTA exclusively, and they already seem to be blocking literally any site just from orders by authorities mostly with an allegation of harming integrity or glory of Islam, without even a single step taken at their end for investigation – there should be an independent authority to handle cyber affairs in Pakistan.
As for example, article19.org, a freedom of speech site has been blocked by many ISPs here – and the reason is same what I just stated. Topping it all, I think an NSA alike program has been built under the shed by our governments now.
As if these bills gets pass, ISPs are going to be required to store our data for 90 days which could be made available to the authorities on demand, hence the details about us we’ve believed to be private wont remain private then. This drafted bill more like be doing the same to us all; expressing our opinions wont be allowed, we wont have the ability to create memes, write freely or design cartoons – especially ones representing a political nature or even to upload photos of the people online without their permission.
Hacking, e-crimes, deceit is on rise on internet and because of lack of awareness in Pakistan the vulnerability is much high, how to address this copious issue?
Well, to tackle the situation we all will need to pay our roles. Let it be the government or an individual, everyone is responsible for the security. More and more seminars should be conducted and users need to have a passion of making each other informed, this will help eliminate the lack of security awareness. As for example, one of the few things for whom our youth can use social media for good is, users should alert their friends over social media as soon as they encounter a scam or phishing email.
How do you see rising trend of cyber entrepreneurship in Pakistan?
Its phenomenal, I must say! And that’s great to see as a Pakistani. I believe youth in Pakistan has got more composed and confident now that they can change things around them a great deal, if not the world – while on the entrepreneur journey.
I happen to e-meet an exceptional online entrepreneur from Pakistan while working on mega researches and projects online, every now and then. So, I believe the trend is already on rise and as the technology and thoughts are advancing even here in Pakistan, it is more likely to touch the sky soon. Having said that, this all is great to see.
Does securitygladiators.com also take challenge to initiate campaign to develop and train human resource in cyber security? If so enumerate the projects or activities in which securitygladiators.com was engaged?
Yes, Security Gladiators is always eager to take such initiatives, and one of the recent ones among such was Qubit conference. QuBit is a cybersecurity community event designed to create a community of security professionals, enthusiasts, students, where they can exchange ideas, new insights, research, experience, advice, and more. The conference was held in Prague, Czech Republic and SecurityGladiators.com was one of the few official media partners.
How to encourage innovative ideas in Pakistan to make e-commerce space appealing in Pakistan?
Well, yes, I see more and more clones in e-commerce field – compared to the original/unique ones. I think we all together can encourage creative ideas while staying in our zones, by embracing analytics, working with our own minds rather than copying others, cross-fertilizing and of course by rewarding good ideas.
How to restrict cyber crimes committed by cyber retailers these days?
Simply an authority needs to be founded to handle online scams and complaints, US and almost every country in Europe has such authorities taking care of such cases. But more important for users here are to not rely on any organization to protect them, they should do their home work first.
As they need to do their research properly prior to going to purchasing anything from a site online; read reviews about them, check their FAQ, check their business age and other precautionary measures one can think off. Also, e-commerce platforms should have a fraud-prevalent system in place so that if any seller on their store practices unethical business moves they need to have the buyer protected in first place.
How to curtail big cybercrimes like recent private company degree scams? Is there any possible way to persistently monitor on real time? Can such cyber security system be devised indigenously in Pakistan?
Well, first of all government staff and general public should be educated on cybercrime issues in a better way. As like in most aspects of life, knowledge is the key here. A body that can mediate and dispatch resources to share information about the cybercrime trends is needed badly. Also, we should better have a central reporting and information sharing channel among the public and private sector. And in short, it goes even without questioning that participation from everyone among us is needed to fight cyber crime, we must speak out now.
What is the checklist for young entrepreneurs before practically stepping in?
I’d say no checklist is needed rather than having an idea, passion and courage. The should not waste any time or confuse themselves by making a checklist prior to starting their venture, if they’ve an idea clicking their mind and honestly think the right passion – they simply need to go with it. And courage is important thing, as most will agree, they will be facing many obstacles but they need to stick to their passion and believe in themselves.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, biggest concern is the initial financial capital for the startup that leads to cautiousness and many people abandon the idea because of lack of adequate funds. What are your views on it?
Yes, this is one of the top (or I should better say worst) challenges that most of the entrepreneurs face in the very beginning of their journey. But, what I believe can get them through this challenge is better cash flow. They should try to start from small and build on it, I personally started providing freelancing services and kept investing that income into my ventures. So, Id suggest keeping a flat fee for their product or services to cover the expenses from the ground up – and always remember to start small.
How much room is there in Pakistan in cyber entrepreneurship? What will be the cyber landscape in next couple of years?
Theres “loads” of room in my opinion, given the fact that leaning towards cyber entrepreneurship doesnt require that much huge resources when compared to starting a local venture and success stories. Success stories are making folks more and more passionate about becoming a cyber entrepreneur I believe, and among these facts, theres an unfortunate fact getting place too.
Thats unemployment, we must confess, were not among the established countries where all the deserving people are handed over decent jobs. It could make people jump into the cyber space to even earn some bucks for supporting their families, and then advancing their career many could simply grow as entrepreneurs.
Without SandT promotion our country cant progress and Technology Times is beholding this slogan being a forerunner newspaper in Sci-Tech. What are your views about it?
I simply agree with that and as for Technology Times – its mission statement as it seems alike is worth appreciating! I personally found the idea behind Technology Times unique, and expecting it to grow into a platform from which everyone among us will get benefit in the long run. Id also like to appreciate its initiative of interviewing the entrepreneurs, as I think it’s nothing less than an appreciation to their work.
Your message for our readers?
I’d like to suggest everyone here to get comfortable doing what makes you uncomfortable, there is no shortcut to the success – no matter whatever you do, challenge yourself. Have faith and keep patience! And of course, as a security professional Id like to suggest everyone to take control of their security and privacy, take part in making our cyberspace security – it’s everyone’s responsibility.