The Asia-Pacific region is now the world’s cyber crime hotspot. During the first quarter of 2023, Asia had the highest average weekly cyber attacks of any region, according to Check Point Research.
While a serious cause for concern, this presents an opportunity for Asian countries and companies to invest in solutions and share their experiences with the world.
Cyber security will be needed in the future more than ever to protect IT infrastructure, systems, networks and applications from digital attacks. The average annual cost of cyber crime worldwide is estimated to grow from $8.4tn last year to more than $23tn in 2027, according to data compiled by Statista.
Key drivers of increased cyber crime in Asia include digitalisation, a cyber security talent shortage, remote working, collaboration platforms, significant manufacturing activity and a desensitised generation of users. All these factors make Asia an attractive target for criminal groups to engage in ransomware, online payment and phishing scams, business espionage and intellectual property theft.
What is being done then by the public and private sectors?
For government authorities, national cyber security task forces can develop strategies, co-ordinate efforts and share best practices. National regulations are being tightened and collaboration is increasing between public and private sectors to share intelligence.
Awareness campaigns are being conducted to educate the public and employees and provide guidance to recognise and respond to potential threats. Because digitalisation varies across the Asia-Pacific region, not all countries are ready to defend against cyber attacks.
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More advanced economies like Singapore are expected to narrow the cyber threat gap faster than their more vulnerable, less digital neighbours. The more secure a country’s cyber protections, the more attractive it is for foreign investors concerned about the surge in cyber crime.
Despite increased vulnerability to cyber attacks, less digital countries remain attractive because of factors like lower production costs and skilled workforce availability. But they also must act quickly to ensure they are not left open to digital attacks.
Cyber security concerns affect private investment decisions by forcing companies to allocate more capital to network security and cloud security. These investments include security solutions, regular system updates and conducting security audits.
Lessons learned by some Asian companies shows how bad experiences can result in greater expertise. Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific lost 9.4 million customer records in a 2018 data breach. A 2020 inquiry by UK watchdog the ICO found “a catalogue of errors” including back-up files not being password-protected and inadequate anti-virus protection.
The airline group has since enhanced its cyber security protections by “investing in people, processes and technologies” and strengthened its ability to detect and respond to future threats, according to its 2022 annual report.
Since a data breach in 2020, Singapore-based telco conglomerate Singtel has implemented a number of group-wide actions such as external and independent reviews, providing affected parties with credit monitoring services and helping to replace compromised identification documents.
The prevalence of cyber crime in Asia is frightening. But the lessons learned offer a chance for the region to play a leading role in developing global solutions for cyber security and protection.
This article first appeared in the October/November 2023 print edition of fDi Intelligence