Robust cybersecurity infrastructure needed to prevent attacks

Palo Alto Networks Inc regional vice-president Steven Scheurmann

PETALING JAYA: With global monetary losses due to cybercrime last year at around US$6 trillion (RM27.4 trillion), Malaysia should ensure it has a robust cybersecurity infrastructure to stave off cyber attacks from derailing its economy, according to US-based global cybersecurity specialist Palo Alto Networks Inc.

The company’s regional vice-president Steven Scheurmann in an email interview told StarBiz that cyber attacks had the potential to bring down a nation’s critical infrastructure, enable intellectual property (IP) thefts, resulting in monetary and reputational losses to governments and businesses.

“Cyber espionage campaigns and nation state attacks have a direct implication on national security which in turn can derail a nation’s economic progress.

“As data continues to become the most priced commodity of economies, cyber security will play a crucial role in securing this crown jewel, to ensure its integrity and thereby play a vital role in the sustained growth of the nation.

“Cybersecurity plays a key role in securing not only Malaysia’s enterprises and their infrastructure, but also the safety and well-being of its citizens, along with securing the prosperity of the economy,” he added.

Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting critical systems and sensitive information from digital attacks.

He said the dependence on digital infrastructure has positioned cybersecurity as a “great facilitator” of accelerating the digital economy.

Internet adoption is directly correlated with economic development, he said, noting that the importance of data security was not only pertinent for information industries, but also for other manufacturing and traditional businesses.

Scheurmann said furthermore the country’s eCommerce was growing at a phenomenal rate.

The proliferation of innovative technologies is transforming the nation’s financial ecosystem, enabling new business models such as neobanks to grow and become a mainstay in an economy, he said.

Neobanks are online-only financial institutions that are similar to banks. He added that it is therefore imperative the internet is given adequate protection against cyber attacks to secure the data it carries, stores and transmits.

Globally, monetary losses due to cybercrime in 2021 were estimated to inflict damages totaling US$6 trillion (RM27.4 trillion).

For context, the amount was equivalent to the gross domestic product or GDP value just behind the world’s third-largest economy after the United States and China, according to Cybersecurity Ventures.

Cybersecurity Ventures is the world’s leading researcher in cyber crimes, cyber economy, and a trusted source for cybersecurity facts, figures, and statistics.

Commenting on Malaysia’s cyber security infrastructure, Scheurmann said: “Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen leaders in Malaysia prioritising cybersecurity issues and taking concrete actions to bolster the nation’s defences.

“We are also witnessing increased investments in shoring up cyber defences as reflected in Palo Alto Networks 2022 State of Cybersecurity report which states that over two-thirds of the organisations plan to increase their cybersecurity budgets in 2022.”

He said a slew of recent cyber attacks on state-owned organisations in Malaysia have put the spotlight back on the nation’s cybersecurity preparedness.

Cybersecurity cannot be an after-thought, he said but must be considered and built from the ground up to keep pace and scale in parallel with technological innovations.

Scheurmann said resolving the issue of talent shortage in the industry, reimagining policies that govern the space, conducting regular cyber risk assessment exercises and driving public awareness to instil a sense of responsibility amongst its citizens would help strengthen Malaysia’s national cybersecurity posture.

He also pointed out that emails and collaboration tools have become one of the most common and overlooked cyber threat entry points today. These incidents generally start with a phishing email requesting email credentials.

He said business email compromise (BEC) incidents could be extremely costly and impactful to organisations. The most common motive in BEC attacks is financial fraud via wire transfers, he said, adding that it often results in additional spam or phishing emails sent from compromised accounts.

“While advanced security technologies are playing a key role in protecting our lives, it remains equally important for each and everyone of us to stay vigilant and keep an eye out for some of the tell-tale signs of such attacks. Cybersecurity is a team game and a team is only as strong as its weakest link,” he said.

Palo Alto Networks is a multinational cybersecurity company with headquarters in Santa Clara, California. The company serves over 85,000 organisations in over 150 countries, including 85 of the Fortune 100. — By DALJIT DHESI

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