Someone who has access to your smartphone has access to your entire life

Stay up to date with the latest measures from the financial sector

You may have already heard or seen it: on October 11, the Center for Cybersecurity Belgium and the Cyber ​​Security Coalition launched their annual awareness campaign on cybersecurity. This year's theme is: protecting your mobile devices. The main message? “Clicking OK is not always OK!” For example, the campaign warns about viruses on smartphones, including the FluBot virus.


The message is clear: only download apps from official app stores and keep viruses out. Febelfin spoke with Miguel De Bruycker, Managing Director of the CCB.

Let's get started right away: can you tell our readers what your latest campaign is about?

This year it is about the protection of smartphones. Nowadays, almost everyone has at least one mobile device in their pocket. We can't do without it anymore. We download all kinds of useful apps to be able to shop, play, track parcels, etc. But that is not without danger.

For example, last year many smartphones of regular internet users were infected with the FluBot virus in no time. This was only because users carelessly downloaded an application. This way, the virus could spread unnoticed to all contacts of the victims. Mobile viruses (mobile malware) are becoming an increasingly important threat. FluBot may have been the first, but certainly not the last, virus that will attack mobile devices in our country.

So when we were brainstorming what the next campaign should be about during our evaluation, we quickly came to the importance of smartphone protection.


What do these viruses do and what measures can you take against them?

When you install software from an unknown platform, there is a real chance that a virus will settle on your device. A virus can watch everything you do on your smartphone without you noticing. The criminal in question gets complete access: to all data, contacts, social media, emails, camera, location, microphone and photos. This way, the criminal can also steal all kinds of personal information such as passwords and banking information. Viruses also look at the contacts on your phone and can then send messages in your name to spread further. Making a wrong click and installing a fake app on your device has major consequences. Because it's simple: someone who has access to your smartphone has access to your entire life. Of course that's scary. Therefore, caution is advised: if your smartphone asks additional questions or a warning appears such as 'are you sure you want to install software from an unknown source?', then you should realize that you are working with dangerous software. Sometimes criminals even go so far as to inform you in advance that you can simply ignore the warning given by your device. Are alarm bells ringing yet?

The most important message we convey with our campaign is that you do not install software via platforms other than the official app stores. Always use only the official stores for installing and managing apps. In short: if the app comes from an unknown source, don't install it.


That's very clear. Last year, CCB and Febelfin launched the campaign “Be smarter than a phisher”. This year the theme is more technical. What determines your choice of theme?

On the one hand, current events and the evolution of cyber threats have a major influence on the theme of our annual campaign. On the other hand, we want to alternate between human and more technical themes and protection. Last year we focused on phishing, a form of fraud that focuses very much on the human aspect, and where we conveyed the message: 'be careful who you trust'. Four years ago we highlighted making backups, the importance of performing system updates and security. Two years ago, we encouraged people to use two-step verification wherever possible. And this year the security of your smartphone.

Why is it necessary to raise awareness again and again?

First and foremost because cyber threats also evolve. It is up to us to make people aware of new risks. But also because our messages need to be repeated regularly. After a while, if we don't repeat it regularly, it fades away in people, and they become less alert again.

From the new figures from the King Baudouin Foundation (Digital Barometer) we learn that 1 in 2 young people are vulnerable online. 1 in 2 only has access to the internet via smartphone. Teaching them good digital cyber hygiene therefore seems crucial to focus on. How do you see this?

Young people are a crucial group to focus on: on average, as Western people, we spend 30% of our lives online. Among young people, this is mainly via the smartphone and that figure also rises to more than 30%. Safe use of smartphones by young people is therefore extra important. We bring our campaign to young people by spreading it on social media channels such as Instagram. We also distribute the campaign via radio spots, banners, videos, etc.

Why is partner support so important? What can the banks do?

The financial sector can help us enormously in reaching our target audience. Because it is absolutely not easy to appeal to the largest possible audience. But when more than 500 partner organizations use and distribute our campaign materials to teach colleagues, customers or students to consciously use their smartphones, much more is possible. Plus: when the banks carry the message, this gives the campaign extra credibility and therefore strength in the eyes of the people.

In a 2015 interview, when you were still a lieutenant colonel in the Defense Department, you said that when it comes to cybersecurity, we are in a constant state of war. The financial sector can certainly confirm this. The conflict in Ukraine shows that fraud techniques are eagerly used to gain access to networks and put pressure on systems. What challenges do you see for the financial sector in this area?

Of course, we don't know how the conflict in Ukraine will evolve. But it could certainly be that cyber threats to our country and, of course, to critical sectors such as the financial sector, will increase. When a conflict escalates, cyber is one of the first aggressive techniques that the opposing party will use. Of course, there are still diplomatic and economic measures before that line is crossed. Yet at a certain point in a conflict you will switch to actually causing harm to the other person. And then cyber attacks are among the first options. When the banks carry our message, this gives the campaign extra credibility and therefore strength in the eyes of the people.

When the banks carry our message, this gives the campaign extra credibility and therefore strength in the eyes of the people.

To what extent can we as a sector protect ourselves against this in the future?

The most important point is to lower our vulnerability so that the chance of the opponent attacking us and breaking in is minimized. This is about human vulnerability. We must be vigilant and realize that the message or message we received, the website we visit, could be wrong or fake. Passwords must be sufficiently complex and must be changed periodically. In society we must be aware of the possibility of cyber threats: if we see something that is not right, we must act.

What things can we look forward to in the coming year?

After the success of the Safeonweb app, there is now a platform specifically for companies: Safeonweb@Work. There, organizations will receive information and support on issues such as “How do I implement cyber protection for my business” and “What are my main vulnerabilities? What should we work on first?”. There will also be a plug-in for internet browsers that will tell the user more about the reliability of a website. These are very good prospects, which we are looking forward to.

Thank you very much for this interview!

Want to know more about the campaign 'Clicking OK is not always OK!' ? All information can be found at