Path to Thai­land 4.0 is a CY­BER-MINE­FIELD


The Nation - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

As we head to­wards an on­line econ­omy and so­ci­ety un­der the over­ar­ch­ing vi­sion of Thai­land 4.0, cy­ber­se­cu­rity has be­come cru­cial to our fu­ture sta­bil­ity.

The dan­gers of a glob­alised In­ter­net have al­ready wreaked havoc at a na­tional level else­where. Last year, Bangladesh’s cen­tral bank lost US$101 mil­lion when hack­ers raided dig­i­tal vaults via the Swift bank­ing net­work. More re­cently, Wan­nacry ran­somware paral­ysed sys­tems in coun­tries around the world, in­clud­ing Thai­land, ex­tort­ing huge amounts of money to re­lease data held hostage.

But with Thai­land ea­gerly pro­mot­ing the use of elec­tronic pay­ment meth­ods, the num­ber of cy­ber-vic­tims here is set to sky­rocket un­less pre­ven­tive steps are taken.

Mo­bile and In­ter­net bank­ing ser­vices are also grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity as Thai banks and fi­nan­cial tech­nol­ogy (Fin­tech) start-ups race to of­fer more con­ve­nience to cus­tomers.

The gov­ern­ment is also spon­sor­ing the Promp­tPay e-pay­ment plat­form as it makes the move to­wards a cash­less so­ci­ety.

While the ben­e­fits of mov­ing money trans­ac­tions on­line are ob­vi­ous, so are the cy­ber­se­cu­rity risks it brings.

Most of us wouldn’t think twice about pay­ing a monthly home loan in­stal­ment at one of Bangkok’s pop­u­lar cof­fee shops. Yet the un­pro­tected free WiFi con­nec­tion can also act as a gate­way for cy­ber- thieves to di­vert your elec­tronic trans­fer of funds. Public WiFi net­works are now in­creas­ingly com­mon – and just as in­se­cure. Greater con­ve­nience here comes at the cost of greater risk.

Part of the so­lu­tion lies in rais­ing public aware­ness via ed­u­ca­tion cam­paigns and train­ing in how to safely ne­go­ti­ate the new dig­i­tal ser­vices for shop­ping, pay­ments and other trans­ac­tions.

Smart­phones are now a ma­jor tar­get of cy­ber- crim­i­nals as their num­ber and use con­tin­ues to grow sharply.

In Thai­land, the num­ber of mo­bile phones now eas­ily out­strips the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion of 65 mil­lion. Phone op­er­a­tors can play a helpful role by en­cour­ag­ing cus­tomers to in­stall se­cu­rity soft­ware, es­pe­cially im­por­tant since more and more of us use our phones as pay­ment de­vices.

The dig­i­tal world is also ex­pand­ing via the so- called In­ter­net of Things. The num­ber of de­vices con­nected up to the IoT will sky­rocket to 25 bil­lion by 2020, ac­cord­ing to most es­ti­mates. IoT-en­abled de­vices num­bered about 9.5 bil­lion in 2015 – over­tak­ing the hu­man pop­u­la­tion of 7.5 bil­lion.

The IoT will en­com­pass house­hold de­vices such as cof­fee ma­chines, re­frig­er­a­tors and ovens, along with med­i­cal de­vices like imag­ing ma­chines, fac­tory equip­ment and in­dus­trial ma­chines. He po­ten­tial for cy­ber-dis­rup­tion is ob­vi­ous.

An­other sig­nif­i­cant threat lies in the grow­ing use of dig­i­tal fin­ger­prints and fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy. Mil­lions of smart­phones now come equipped with this soft­ware, which is also fea­tur­ing more and more in on­line ser­vices such as visa ap­pli­ca­tions.

The re­sult­ing data­bases of mil­lions of bio-iden­ti­ties will be the next big tar­get for cy­ber-hi­jack­ers. Iden­tity theft, al­ready a huge prob­lem, threat­ens to be­come a boom­ing in­dus­try.

All these po­ten­tial threats need to be stud­ied care­fully by gov­ern­ment and pri­vate sec­tor ex­perts as Thai­land en­ters the era of con­nected econ­omy and so­ci­ety.

A new age in­evitably leads to new modes of crime and trans­gres­sion. The chal­lenge is to an­tic­i­pate the dan­gers and de­velop new mea­sures to com­bat them.

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