Cyber Security Asia 2019: The threats and highlights

The Kingdom’s rapid progress in development in recent years has also allowed sectors in the country to leap frog into digitalisation

The Kingdom’s rapid progress in development in recent years has also allowed sectors in the country to leap frog into digitalisation while also making waves as one of the fastest growing region for internet users in the region.
However, with rapid digitising also come risks, exposing companies, both local and international player in the country to digital threats. Issues such as the lack of cybersecurity professionals have plagued the nations, with many unaware of methods to defend their companies from possible hacking aiming to obtain secure and confidential informations.

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Taking place in Rosewood Hotel in the capital, the 2-day Cyber Security Asia 2019 conference, organised by Thomvell International drew a crowd of over 200 participants, government authorities, local IT players as well as potential international investors.

The conference saw household names such as Thomas Hundt, chief executive officer of Smart Axiata as well as the ICT Security Director, Phannarith Ou from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Cambodia attend to share their thoughts on the current cybersecurity landscape in the Kingdom.

Matters such as the urgent need for better cybersecurity in all sectors as well as coming up with strategies and policies for a better cybersecurity framework was explored. Hundnt who gave the opening keynote on the first day stressed for constant vigilance.

One of the key speakers representing Cybersecurity Malaysia, Haji Amiruddin Abdul Wahab, presented on what it takes to build a successful cyber program in this day and age.

“There can’t be just one layer of security; it has to be multi-layered,” says Amiruddin, urging companies to take on a more holistic approach when it comes to facing cyber threats as they are getting smarter as well.

Highlighting the importance of cybersecurity measures, Principle Research Scientist, Robert Kooij from the Singapore University of Technology Design said policies and strategies should be looked into very carefully and in detail.

“Along with these strategies comes vulnerability and impacts and it is something authorities in every sector should seriously take into account,” says Kooij.

On the matter of policies, legislatives pertaining to the sector are currently underway in the Kingdom. Sharing his thoughts during a panel discussion, Ou stated that there have been active internal discussions with representatives from sectors such as telecoms and energy to prepare players for it as well as alert them on how critical cybersecurity measures are.

Thomas Hundt
Smart Axiata CEO, Thomas Hundt opens the first day of the conference with a keynote speech. CC/ Chor Sokunthea

The need for more education
One of the panelists in the conference, computing and security associate dean of the Edith Cowan University, Paul Haskell-Dowland, says education holds the key when it comes to addressing the dangers of sharing information online.

“You can’t just tell people to avoid technology, the warnings that parents are giving their children now are no different from the ‘stranger-danger’ lessons they were given as children, it’s just the medium – the platform that has changed,” he adds.

Trust Global Service, senior consultant, Ignatius Low highlights that there is a need to educate the public about all the loopholes and gaps that come with cybersecurity measures that are applied in the systems.

“The lack of exposure and education among IT managers, directors and technicians in the country could impact company reputations and you have to understand the fundamentals of what a security breach do to a reputation of a company,” says Low, referring to the serious lack of understanding in the sector.

“There is also a need for companies to cater budgets to priority areas,” he added.

Cybersecurity Malaysia chief executive officer, Haji Amiruddin Abdul Wahab voiced out a similar concern as well that security often becomes an afterthought for companies as long as everything seems to be working fine.

“It is important for companies focusing on digital transformation to embed security measures early on,” he urged.

Low also stated that while all these measures are important, companies would have to start from the root basic being compliance.

“Unless companies are aware of compliance, they would not be able to develop policies on security, network usage as well as email usage,” Low said. He stressed that various industries need to be aware of compliance especially the public service sector.

“Compliance starts with transparency and accountability,” says Mastersam cybersecurity advisor, Jordan Koh , who had partnered up with Trust Global Service to provide clients with privileged access assessments.

Amirudin expresses interest to collaborate with his Cambodian counterparts to improve the Kingdom’s cyber defence system. CC/ Chor Sokunthea

Aiding the Kingdom in improving digital defence
Cybersecurity Malaysia’s Amirudin who played a key role in the conference in sharing his experience as well as the company’s 23 year experience to attending participants expressed his interest in helping the Royal Government to further progress the country’s digital defence.

“Both countries are used to working on a multilateral platform which is the ASEAN and Asia Pacific CERT platforms, and I would like to explore more specific areas on a bilateral platform,” he says, hoping to meet his Cambodian counterpart so they can explore bilateral opportunities to strengthen areas of capacity building.

In line with the company’s’ mission to improve the capabilities of neighbouring countries, Amirudin pointed that no country in the region is completely when fellow neighbours are vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Malaysia’s deputy minister for communications and multimedia, Eddin Syazlee Shith in his trip earlier this year said that Malaysia is ready to share working models on human resource development to create talent and collaborate on capacity building in the cybersecurity sector.

Amirudin has expressed for a bilateral agreement between Cybersecurity Malaysia and the Kingdom in the area of cybersecurity to strengthen its legislatives and policies as well as fast track Cambodia’s progress in cyber security.

The conference had also opened up opportunities for companies to partner up with other entities in the sector, which saw Trust Global Service become the local partner for Cybersecurity Malaysia to deliver cybersecurity measures to Malaysian companies arriving in the Kingdom.

Digitisation leads to more risk exposure
“2019 was a year of discovery for most customers, there were more curiosity and exploration,” says Low as he notices the awareness levels among his customers has risen.

With the push for digitisation happening in every sector, companies are more exposed to threats that could leave them crippled operationally.

“Companies in every sector has to equip themselves with right knowledge and tools as exposure to the risks of cybersecurity becomes higher,” says Amirudin.

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