By Alex Loh
GLOBALLY, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a black swan event that proved to be the impetus for digitisation, even among the most reluctant of companies and countries.
However, threats were quick to follow in the wake of opportunity, with Interpol reporting a spate of cyberattacks aimed at major corporations, governments and critical infrastructure during the pandemic, as hackers switched focus from individuals and small businesses to government agencies and the healthcare sector.
With more people working from home, criminals also seized on security vulnerabilities among businesses and we can expect the threat to continue amidst an acceleration in migration to the cloud.
Malaysia too needs to shore up our defences, following the recent announcement of the Malaysian Digital Economy Blueprint (MyDIGITAL) that aims to enhance digitalisation, improve digital infrastructure, and build a more trusted and secure digital environment.
With the target of achieving 80% cloud storage of data across the Government by 2022 and enhancing remote work processes, resilience against cyberattacks is crucial.
For those of us who remember hacks targeting Malaysia’s Government assets over the years, the importance of this resilience cannot be overstated.
Contributing individual strengths for a stronger whole
As with any national-level security endeavour, it behoves every stakeholder to contribute their strengths and best ability. Public-private partnerships involving government agencies, institutes of higher learning and private enterprises can contribute each party’s strengths and expertise, to address the most critical security challenges in the digital environment.
R&D efforts into threat protection capabilities will undoubtedly be strengthened when we break down the silos separating academia and the enterprise sectors, further elevating the capacity for a nationwide response to malign acts in cyberspace.
As each company and nation is only as strong as her people, a pipeline of cybersecurity talent is critical.
For Malaysia to level up in digital economy adoption while repelling the threats that accompany such expansions in digitisation, it is important for graduates to be industry-ready.
Collaborations between universities and private enterprises are invaluable in building a pipeline of skilled human capital, including the graduates from our partner Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP) who have undergone training under the Fortinet Network Security Academy (FNSA) programme since 2017, the first such facility for us in Southeast Asia.
Having a dynamic talent pipeline also improves the potential for homegrown technological developments in the longer term. Malaysia’s cybersecurity services market is forecasted to achieve a value of RM2.5 bil by 2021, with the country having among the biggest cybersecurity services market shares in Asean, expected to hit 23% by 2025.
With an estimated 10% of top job opportunities in Malaysia being related to cybersecurity and digital talent demand growing by 15% annually to an estimated 540,000 jobs by 2020 – including cybersecurity jobs, this promises more potential for Malaysian workers in this uncertain economy.
Cybersecurity is key to resilience
On an individual basis, businesses should review their business continuity planning (BCP), as many may overlook the role of cybersecurity, perhaps thinking that we’re unlikely targets for malfeasance.
In fact, a successful BCP strategy is one that considers even the unlikely and unthinkable, thus, evaluating the cyber risk levels we can afford and assessing our readiness to withstand cyberattacks are key steps in this planning.
With Malaysia’s push towards digitisation making an increase in cybersecurity risks inevitable, it falls upon each organisation to make preparations and take decisive actions to mitigate damage if the worst happens.
For the country as a whole, even as we strive towards greater digitisation and narrowing the digital gap across the urban-rural divide and the income divide, we cannot take our attention off the need to narrow the preparedness divide between those that are protected against cyberattacks and those that are acutely vulnerable.
Cyberattacks need not become another scourge that plagues Malaysian businesses, organisations and government entities – if we take action now and stay vigilant always. – May 4, 2021
Alex Lo is Fortinet’s Country Manager for Malaysia.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.