Digitalising SMEs inevitable but cybersecurity boost needed too

OVER the last few decades, Malaysia’s economy has gone through a substantial transformation, from agriculture to industry-based. With that, there is no denying that the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) played a crucial role in driving the nation through this transformation journey by being the key driver of economic growth and employment.

So, what are SMES? As of 2013, the new definition of SMEs cover all sectors, which include services, manufacturing, agriculture, construction, mining & quarrying and is sub-divided into three categories – micro, small and medium.

Based on data by the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), Malaysian SMEs gross domestic product (GDP) grew 6.2% in 2018. In addition, the contribution of SME to our GDP rose to 38.3% in the same year, from 37.8% in 2017. 

For 2019, our SMEs GDP grew at 5.8% as compared to 6.2% in 2018, while the contribution of SMEs to GDP increased to 38.9% from 38.3% in the previous year. In nominal terms, SMEs GDP recorded RM551.7 bil in 2018 compared to RM519.1 bil in 2017.

Furthermore, the nation’s economy consists of almost 99% of SMEs, where they contribute about 66% of the country’s employment and around 17.3% of Malaysia’s exports.

In a nutshell, SMEs are the backbone of Malaysia’s economy.

Digitalisation increases cybercrimes  

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic landed on our shores, the Government has already been pushing for local SMEs to be digitally-enabled and technologically equipped to meet the demands of an increasingly connected world.

“Digitalisation is coming, given another two to three years, I would say almost all SMEs will go into cashless payment” said SME Corp CEO Noor Azmi Mat Said in 2019.

Fast forward to 2021, 5,634 applications from SMEs has been received for the SME Business Digitalization Grant initiative – a Budget 2020 initiative to encourage SMEs to adopt digitalisation in their business operations – which 90% of the applications have been approved as of end of last year.

However, the increased online activities by SMEs also opened loopholes for cybercriminals.

According to Kaspersky Security Network (KSN), 767,000 business users in Malaysia were almost infected with internet-borne malware in 2020.  In the first half of 2020 (H1 2020), 269,533 phishing attempts were targeted against Malaysian SMEs, 56% more than previous year while 238,780 cryptomining attempts were targeted against SMEs in the same period, almost twofold uptick compared with previous year.

Cybersecurity a must in connected world

KSN also shared that on average, a single data breach can cost as much as RM400,000 to an SME in Southeast Asia.

“As the Malaysian SMEs continue to digitalise, cybersecurity should be on top of their mind regardless of the size of their business,” Kaspersky Southeast Asia general manager Yeo Siang Tiong commented, during virtual media session with the Malaysian media recently.

Understanding the importance of cybersecurity among SMEs, the global cybersecurity has recently launched its Kaspersky Endpoint Detection and Response Optimum (KEDRO), a new solution for SMEs in the Southeast Asia region. 

KEDRO delivers full visibility and empowers SMEs’ limited IT staff to conduct a root-cause investigation and to quickly and intelligently respond against complex and costly threats.

In addition, KEDRO was designed to be as simple to operate as possible, acknowledging the challenge of finding internal IT experts and most importantly, budget-friendly.

“If you look at post-recession recoveries in the past, what companies choose to invest into their businesses has played a big role in how weak or strong they fared after a crisis,” SME Association Malaysia’s (SAMENTA) central region chairman Datuk William Ng pointed out.

Thus, it is important for SMEs to realise that the value of making investments in the business’ future during an economic slump, not after.

While it is imperative to shift towards digitalisation, it is also crucial to have cybersecurity in mind as it will always be the best step towards protecting and safeguarding the business (and cashflow). – Feb 28, 2021

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