Asia’s governments, businesses and internet users must prepare for cybercrime

Jeff Hurmuses says the Asia-Pacific is not yet the prime target for cybercriminals, but rising use of technology means the region needs to start educating the public and preparing responses for the inevitable wave

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 11:15am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 7:16pm

Several Asia-Pacific countries, especially in emerging markets, are severely lacking in cybersecurity. According to research by Marsh & McLennan Companies, the region is ideal for cybercriminals due to high digital connectivity, low cybersecurity awareness and weak regulations.

The most dangerous, pervasive forms of malware and the highest frequency of attacks are not happening yet in the Asia-Pacific. Perpetrators target countries with the strongest economies, like in North America and Europe, to get the biggest return on investment.

But the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia already see wide use of mobile banking and social media via smartphones, making them targets for cybercriminals.

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It’s likely the region will see an increase in malware detections. Lack of transparency results in weak cyber regulations, as well as a marked lack of security investment among businesses – perhaps partially due to the internet security market being heavily targeted towards the US and European markets.

Lack of regulation results in third-party app stores selling malicious apps, and pirated software left unpatched due to lack of official support. It also leaves PCs ripe for takeover, with 50 per cent of botnet detections by Malwarebytes centred in Asia. Outdated prevention security, use of pirated software, lack of remediation or response and poor cyber protection leave systems vulnerable.

According to ESET’s Asia Cyber-Savviness Report, 78 per cent of Asian internet users have no cybersecurity education. This bleeds over into business, with Marsh & McLennan reporting that 70 per cent of Asian firms admit not having a strong understanding of their cyber posture.

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Without background information on the dangers in cyberthreats, individuals and companies are less likely to consult cybersecurity resources, invest in security products or respond quickly to breaches.

Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan have excellent cybersecurity postures; all have government-linked cybersecurity agencies sponsoring education, outreach and response to cyberthreats. But the entire region must make a unified effort to ensure that awareness is given greater emphasis.

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While regional internet use grows, legislation and cybersecurity awareness lags; users leave themselves vulnerable to attacks. Individuals, businesses and government bodies must learn more about cybersecurity and educate friends, family and co-workers, while taking steps now before the wave of cyberattacks hits.

Jeff Hurmuses is area vice-president and managing director of the Asia-Pacific at cybersecurity company Malwarebytes