Computer hackers

Cybersecurity becomes a pressing priority for corporations

Peter Metzger notes a corresponding demand for expertise to deal with widespread threat

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 3:37pm

The recently reported Citadel botnet is estimated to have infected up to five million computers around the world and stolen more than US$500 million from bank accounts. Worryingly, Hong Kong is one of the places with the most Citadel infections.

Cybersecurity is now an increasingly critical issue for governments and companies alike.

When US President Barack Obama met President Xi Jinping in California for historic face-to-face meetings last week, cybersecurity was high on the agenda. Earlier this year, Singapore amended its Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act, which aims to protect essential services such as communications infrastructure, banking and finance, and public utilities.

Hong Kong set up its own Cyber Security Centre last December. For Hong Kong companies, it is not just specific data files that are at risk. As the scale of recent cyberattacks shows, they present an enterprise-wide threat to a company's finances, operations and reputation. It's worth emphasising that these risks are widespread.

Last year, Hong Kong businessman Tse Man-lai was jailed for nine months for launching cyberattacks on a Hong Kong stock exchange website. In his sentencing, Judge Kim Longley said Tse's move "caused such concern" to seven companies, including HSBC and Cathay Pacific Airways, that they suspended trading in their shares, valued at HK$1.5 trillion in total.

Corporate cybersecurity has become a pressing priority for chief executives and boards of directors. In fact, these concerns are driving the growth of the data-loss protection market in the Asia-Pacific region. Consulting firm Frost & Sullivan estimates that the market will grow by 43 per cent to US$169.1 million next year.

We are seeing companies in the region asking to hire people who have a combination of information technology expertise and intelligence security backgrounds. While the supply of such people is quite limited, their ability to deliver value in these risky times makes them a high-level priority.

At the same time, corporations are reorganising their structures to add chief information security officers to senior leadership teams, entrusted with devising and implementing effective, holistic cybersecurity strategies.

Corporations around the world are also adding additional talent to their cyberprotection teams, including hackers. Working from inside an organisation, these professionals will repeatedly test the company's protection systems and identify areas for needed improvement.

Peter T. Metzger is vice-chairman at executive search firm CTPartners. He has experience at the CIA and was a marine military assistant to US president Ronald Reagan