JUST like the rest of the world, people in the Southeast Asian region have been forced to stay indoors. Luckily, the pandemic didn’t stop people from moving about or making changes, at least not digitally.
In a report by Kaspersky’s Global Research and Analyst Team (GReAT), it was found that 40 million Internet users from Southeast Asia came online for the first time in 2020, many of which were originating from non-city areas in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Although Southeast Asia is currently among the world’s most active Internet users, the adoption of digital technology was not as pervasive as when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Now, about 70% of the region’s population, ranging around 400 million netizens comprising individuals and businesses, are doing almost everything online.
For the newbies into the digital world, they are the perfect prey for cyber threats as they are the least educated when it comes to cyber security.
In 2020 alone, Kaspersky detected massive cyber threats that resulted to exposure of confidential data:
Over 310,000 credit card details issued by top banks in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, were involved in a data breach in March.
In the same month, personal information of 91 million users of Indonesia’s largest e-commerce platform were leaked.
In Thailand, 8.3 billion subscribers of the country’s largest mobile network were exposed in May.
A Singapore-based online grocery platform suffered a data breach affecting 1.1 million accounts in October.
Cyber criminals also capitalized on people’s fear of COVID-19 and used healthcare as a bait for different attacks targeting medical equipment in countries where digital transformation has just begun.
“2020 however has seen an unparalleled adoption of technology, and an increase in attack surface that is ripe for potentially more successful breaches. Those who have been quick to come on board this transformation must also be just as vigilant to protect themselves,” said Kaspersky security researcher for GReAT (APAC) Muhammad Umair.
Meanwhile, in the business world, remote working is expected to be practiced even after the pandemic subsides.
On this, Kaspersky general manager of Southeast Asia Yeo Siang Tiong commented: “Now is the time to reflect on the lessons of 2020 and we recommend companies start creating a security strategy if there’s none, or revising the existing one to effectively adapt to the changing environment and protect the workforce.”
Cybersecurity trends in 2021
Under the new norm, the majority of sectors in the region have been increasingly going through a digital transformation in a race for survival.
2020 has witnessed a drastic increase in the use of online payment services and transactions, as well as a growing number of potential victims have come online.
There have already been an increased number of phishing attacks on such victims in the first half of 2020 and this trend is expected to continue through 2021.
There were ample lures going around with a COVID-19 theme this year, so digital users should expect to see similar lures incorporating vaccination themes as well.
Since Malaysia has recently stated that it will conduct re-elections once the pandemic has subsided, this also paves the way for disinformation campaigns, targeting both internal and external stakeholders.
Not only that, due to an increased user base for social media and mobile devices, such campaigns are likely to see a much larger effect on opinions than was ever seen previously.
But the most popular sector to become a target for cyber threat is the healthcare sector as it has been a trend worldwide.
All across the SEA region, there has been an increased push towards remote health monitoring solutions and online health consultations, motivated by the goal of reducing contact.
This means an increasing number of patient data is coming online as well as the increase in attack surface throughout the health sector.
According to Kaspersky researchers, this trend will continue through 2021. The new year may also see more attack attempts targeted towards this sector as new regulatory restrictions, new treatments and an increase in the number of potential victims continue to attract attention. – Mar 6, 2021