Are We Bat­tle-Ready?

Fight­ing cy­ber crime re­quires con­certed ef­forts within and be­yond or­ga­ni­za­tions

Portfolio - - IN THIS ISSUE - By Li Hao­han

Cybersecurity in the ASEAN re­gion has un­der­gone four seis­mic changes over the past five years, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Nilesh Jain, Vice Pres­i­dent, SEA and In­dia at lead­ing cy­ber se­cu­rity and de­fense com­pany Trend Mi­cro. “Firstly, the num­ber of peo­ple con­nected to the In­ter­net has grown sig­nif­i­cantly world­wide.” By end 2017, 4.1 bil­lion peo­ple has ac­cess to the In­ter­net, out of the 7.2 bil­lion global pop­u­la­tion. ASEAN, with its rapidly grow­ing econ­omy, is ex­pected to have 480 mil­lion In­ter­net users – 75 per cent of its pop­u­la­tion – by 2020. “While the In­ter­net be­comes in­creas­ingly de­moc­ra­tized,” Mr. Jain con­tin­ues, “it also in­tro­duces an ever-en­larg­ing at­tack sur­face for cy­ber­crime ac­tiv­i­ties.” A 2017 re­port by global man­age­ment con­sult­ing firm A.T. Kear­ney re­veals ASEAN coun­tries have been used as launch pads for cy­ber­at­tacks, with Malaysia, In­done­sia and Viet­nam among the global hotspots for the launch of mal­ware at­tacks. “There had been a strong cor­re­la­tion be­tween a rise in cy­ber­at­tacks and the in­crease in In­ter­net users,” Mr. Jain points out. Se­condly, cy­ber­at­tacks are be­com­ing highly so­phis­ti­cated. Cy­ber­crim­i­nals no longer en­gage heav­ily in ‘spray-and-pray’ – in­dis­crim­i­nate at­tacks that did not re­quire high tech­ni­cal so­phis­ti­ca­tion. A Trend Mi­cro cybersecurity roundup re­port has shown a marked growth in tar­geted and strate­gic at­tacks that fo­cused on fi­nan­cial gains. “This can be ob­served in the in­creas­ing va­ri­ety of ran­somware fam­i­lies, highly per­son­al­ized phish­ing at­tacks, and lever­ag­ing new tech­nolo­gies, in­clud­ing IoT de­vices or con­nected in­dus­trial hu­man-ma­chine in­ter­face, for at­tacks.” Thirdly, at­tacks are be­com­ing mul­ti­fac­eted. “With more busi­nesses mov­ing op­er­a­tions to the cloud, and more con­nected de­vices used in the en­ter­prise en­vi­ron­ment, cy­ber­crim­i­nals are now able to launch at­tacks via mul­ti­ple chan­nels, such as end­points – PCs, smart­phones, and tablets us­ing the cor­po­rate net­work, servers, and the net­work. Lastly, changes in cy­ber sphere have called for changes in cybersecurity strat­egy in the re­gion. “In the past, an or­ga­ni­za­tion might have a va­ri­ety of se­cu­rity prod­ucts in place that pro­tected dif­fer­ent parts of busi­ness – end­point, servers, and the net­work – and these tech­nolo­gies did not talk to each other, cre­at­ing an in­evitable blind spot.”

With more busi­nesses mov­ing op­er­a­tions to the cloud, and more con­nected de­vices used in the en­ter­prise en­vi­ron­ment, cy­ber­crim­i­nals are now able to launch at­tacks via mul­ti­ple chan­nels

To­day, com­pa­nies un­der­stand the need for a 360-de­gree vis­i­bil­ity by mak­ing dif­fer­ent tech­nolo­gies talk to each other and share in­for­ma­tion. Mr. Jain calls the strat­egy con­nected threat de­fense.

ASEAN Pre­pared­ness?

Ac­cord­ing to the same A. T. Kear­ney re­port, digital econ­omy will add one tril­lion dol­lars to the ASEAN re­gion’s GDP in the next 10 years, but the same dig­i­tal­iza­tion will also ex­pose the re­gion to cy­ber­at­tacks that will po­ten­tially cost US$750 mil­lion dol­lars. How is ASEAN pre­par­ing? In 2017, Sin­ga­pore spent 0.22 per cent of its GDP on cybersecurity, the third big­gest spender in the world af­ter Is­rael and the UK, Mr. Jain notes. Mean­while, ASEAN as a whole in­vested 0.06 per cent of its GDP on av­er­age into cybersecurity, sig­nif­i­cantly lower than the global av­er­age of 0.13 per cent, “a sign that the re­gion is un­der­in­vest­ing in cybersecurity”. He cites Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia as the ASEAN lead­ers in de­vis­ing and im­ple­ment­ing a na­tional strat­egy for cybersecurity, adding that Thai­land and the Philip­pines have also laid out their own cybersecurity agenda. Mean­while the rest of the ASEAN coun­tries have ei­ther just started work­ing on a mas­ter­plan or have none at all. “What is heart­en­ing is that a few coun­tries have set up na­tional agen­cies that over­see cybersecurity ef­forts, in­clud­ing Sin­ga­pore, Malaysia, Philip­pines, In­done­sia, and Thai­land,” Mr. Jain notes. While Sin­ga­pore, Malaysia, Thai­land, and Viet­nam have put in place cybersecurity bills as of 2017, lim­ited progress has been made in the rest of ASEAN, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Jain. Cy­ber­crime laws have been passed in Sin­ga­pore, Malaysia, Thai­land, the Philip­pines, and Brunei. Data pro­tec­tion or pri­vacy laws have been en­acted in Sin­ga­pore, Malaysia, In­done­sia, Thai­land, and the Philip­pines.

In­te­grat­ing the Sys­tems

With an ever-chang­ing threat land­scape and the in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion of hack­ing, or­ga­ni­za­tions face more per­sis­tent, com­plex, and in­no­va­tive cy­ber­at­tacks. “Re­search shows that more than 25 per cent of com­pa­nies sur­veyed use more than 10 cybersecurity ven­dors at once, and more than 36 per cent de­ploy more than 10 cybersecurity solutions,” Mr. Jain shares. “More of­ten than not, se­cu­rity prod­ucts from dif­fer­ent ven­dors do not work well to­gether; coun­ter­in­tu­itively, this can lengthen the time needed to iden­tify and con­tain a breach.” Ponemon In­sti­tute data re­veals that it takes 184 days on av­er­age for ASEAN coun­tries to iden­tify a data breach, and an­other 65 days to con­tain it. Cy­ber dwell time – the num­ber of days a threat re­mains un­de­tected – is re­ported to be 65 per cent higher in APAC than in the Amer­i­cas. Such de­lay can re­sult in sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the fi­nan­cial dam­ages of a breach, Mr. Jain says. “It is al­ways a best prac­tice to de­ploy prod­ucts that are sim­ple, open, au­to­mated, and in­te­grable with the other prod­ucts. This is usu­ally done by adopt­ing tech­nolo­gies from the same ven­dor. Hav­ing in­te­grated se­cu­rity so­lu­tion al­lows an ef­fi­cient way to pro­tect, de­tect, and re­spond to all threats that are tar­get­ing the busi­ness net­works at the same time. It can also im­prove vis­i­bil­ity and con­trol across the or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

A Sea Change

“Cybersecurity can re­ally go two ways, re­sult­ing in two very dif­fer­ent worlds,” Mr. Jain af­firms. “In the more op­ti­mistic ver­sion, when done right, cybersecurity will be­come the back­bone of the In­ter­net and all digital ser­vices in the fu­ture. This re­quires that gov­ern­ments en­act poli­cies and laws and work with law en­force­ment agen­cies to im­prove cy­ber ca­pa­bil­i­ties to in­ves­ti­gate and ap­pre­hend cy­ber­crim­i­nals. These must be done si­mul­ta­ne­ously as there is lit­tle use in hav­ing com­pre­hen­sive laws in place but not suf­fi­cient ca­pa­bil­ity to en­force them.” From a com­pany’s per­spec­tive, he con­tin­ues, it’s in­creas­ingly im­por­tant to in­vest in the ap­pro­pri­ate cybersecurity tech­nol­ogy and hire ded­i­cated cybersecurity pro­fes­sion­als. “(Com­pa­nies) should have a clear com­mu­ni­ca­tions plan that al­lows clients and users know how they are tak­ing steps to strengthen pro­tec­tion of the sys­tems and user in­for­ma­tion.” Only when all these are in or­der can con­sumers de­velop faith and con­fi­dence in digital ser­vices, lead­ing to more use of such ser­vices. This can form a ‘vir­tu­ous cy­cle’ for the so­ci­ety at large. “On the flip side,” Mr. Jain cau­tions, “if cybersecurity tech­nolo­gies, poli­cies, and laws are in­suf­fi­cient to rein in the cy­ber­crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties, it can erode con­sumers’ con­fi­dence and make them hes­i­tant to switch to digital ser­vices, stunt­ing digital trans­for­ma­tion on large scale.”

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