With the digital world expanding and cybercrime an ever-growing issue, we spoke to the CEO of CyberSecurity Malaysia to discover the latest in online protection and prevention
Written by: Marcus Kääpä
The increase of worldwide digital activity has given rise to a tremendous number of possibilities.
Companies across the globe have made use of digital platforms and services to retreat from the manual face-to-face methods of working and continue to evolve and strengthen their online presence.
Alongside this, the workplace has shifted. 2020 saw the huge rise in the number of online-centric businesses due to COVID-19 and the resulting necessity of digital accessibility. The increased shift from office-based to online working has provided people with a variety of options as to how, when, and where to work.
But as with every expanding frontier, the digital realm comes with its own problems and challenges. More than ever, especially due to the mass-use of online communication, services, and workplaces in light of the current pandemic, online threats rise with it. It is from this broad and varied digital danger that cybersecurity plays an important role in keeping our online lives risk-free and protected.
For CyberSecurity Malaysia, making the Asian digital realm a more secure place to roam is critical. We spoke to Dato’ Ts Dr. Amirudin Abdul Wahab FASc, the firm’s CEO, about the state of the industry and the necessity of the company in the Asian cyber space.
“CyberSecurity Malaysia is a technical agency under the view of the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia of Malaysia, so we provide a broad range of cyber security service innovations, programmes, and initiatives. As a national service and specialty centre, we help to reduce the volatility of digital systems at the same time as creating and sustaining safer cyberspace,” he elaborates.
“The world is becoming highly connected and with this evolution more and more technologies converge. Because of this, more sectors are using, and being enabled by, digital technology – they are becoming more dependent and reliable on the internet.
“Our demand for the most advanced methods and services has been expedited by COVID-19 and has revealed a reliance for online connections for both governments and individual people. Yet with increased digital services and reach comes increased risk from cybercriminals conducting illegal activities. So, equally to the need for online connection, there becomes a need to establish a safe and cyber-secure environment.”
In this digital age people are very dependant and rely heavily on the internet, online services, and technologies in conducting their daily activities as well as businesses, and CyberSecurityMalaysia recognises the need for safe digital expansion.
“We cannot deny that there are a lot of advantages and opportunities by having digital technologies such as cloud computing, IoT, artificial intelligence, automation, machine learning, deep learning, Big Data, blockchain, and the rest,” Wahab tells us.
“However, the internet and digital technologies can also be a double-edged sword. They can be misused by cybercriminals to conduct illegal and criminal activities.”
Innovation and APCERT
The growth and development of the consumer businesses is paramount for CyberSecurityMalaysia, and the delivery of up-to-date digital and software services is a must-have aspect of companies attempting to compete in industries today, as well as staving off potential digital threats.
“If you compare the period of our incident reports to our Cyber 999 help centre in 2019, we received 10,773 cyber security incidents in total,” Wahab explains.
“As of this year up until the end of October, we have seen close to 9,042 incidents already, and we expect to receive a lot more. The top five highest incidents that were reported to in sequence are online fraud, intrusion, malicious code, content-related, and denial of service attack.
Operating as a government agency under the branch of technology and communications, CyberSecurity Malaysia does not position itself as a competitor within the industry.
“As a technical agency we work collaboratively to ensure cybersecurity or technical help is provided. We also get to develop people skills and knowledge to improve the standards of process and ensure the best and newest practices,” Wahab continues.
“Collaboration within the industry is essential since this will allow for the sharing of knowledge and experience, enabling us to enhance the knowledge of participating organisations and level of readiness for a progressive sector.”
The company’s appointment as Chair of the Asia Pacific Computer Emergency Response Team (APCERT) for the past two years best showcases this.
And as the Chair of the organisation, CyberSecurity Malaysia’s responsibility is to provide strategic direction and guidance to keep APCERT moving forward, helping businesses, and staying relevant and up to date in an increasingly sophisticated digital world.
“CyberSecurity Malaysia was one of the co-founders of APCERT from back in 2002. The company will continue to develop and encourage multilateral effort, frameworks, new norms, sharing of information and support a digital order if we are to create a trusted and resilient cyberspace whose future is in the hands of all in the region,” Wahab adds.
APCERT currently houses 33 operational members from 23 different economies within the Asia Pacific region.
“The wider APCERT organisation covers the enhancement of international cybersecurity cooperation, the mitigation of large-scale security incidents, the facilitation of information sharing regarding cyber threats, as well as the promotion of collaborative research between groups, and assisting the region to conduct efficient and effective computer emergency responses,” Wahab explains.
The pandemic has triggered a substantial rise in the use of cybersecurity in line with growth in general digital and online services and connections.
Since the Movement Control Order (MCO) was enacted in Malaysia, cybersecurity cases have increased by a dramatic 82.5 percent compared to the same time the year before.
“A total of 838 incidents were reported to CyberSecurity Malaysia between the start of the MCO on March 18 2020 and April 7. Of this total, 18 percent, or 152 cases, involved local companies, while the rest were home users and others,” Wahab informs us.
“It is a jump from the 459 cases reported in the same period in 2019, based on data made available by the agency’s emergency response centre, Cyber999. Most cases during the MCO have involved fraud, intrusion, and cyber harassment.”
From this perspective the pandemic has presented both challenges and opportunities for CyberSecurity Malaysia, as has the emergence of 5G as the new digital frontier.
Currently, 5G networks are the most advanced public online facilitators, and so this naturally increases the potential cyber risk.
“Compared to the 4G networks, the 5G networks support a massive number of connected devices and is expected to be much faster, reliable and efficient. It allows consumers and developers to keep pace with rapidly increasing voice and data traffic and is expected to provide capabilities for new technologies such as the IoT,” Wahab adds.
“The power and potential of 5G go way beyond enabling super-fast video streaming with zero lag time and full-length movie downloads within seconds. The new 5G technology will provide a more stable mobile network for these activities and will also enable infrastructure for other services.”
The implementation of 5G will enable Malaysian industry to incorporate more automation and innovation, and at the same time enable the country’s people to partake in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0) – the advancement, increased mechanisation, and digitalisation of industries, businesses, and workplaces.
For Wahab, new digital potential will spell increasingly complex and multi-faceted problems for those faced with the prospect of cybercrime.
“In the healthcare industry, for example, 5G will enable the transfer of large patient files, remote surgery, and remote patient monitoring via IoT devices being more efficient and faster,” he tells us.
“But those advances required the need for ever-stronger security. They are creating risks that include medical identity theft, invasion of health privacy, and medical data management.”
To combat the potential of cybercrime, CyberSecurity Malaysia works alongside a variety of external companies and organisations to ensure its success. The company’s supply chain partners prove invaluable in this process of service provision. Wahab comments on the necessity of industry partners.
“No single actor can act alone in this digital age,” he proclaims. “Cybersecurity needs to involve everyone which includes government agencies, NGOs, industries, the public and individuals.
“To enhance cybersecurity collaboration, we should have the sharing of threats/incidents information, cyber crisis management and coordination, practical legal and technical approach, capacity building, and cybersecurity awareness and education.”
Wahab supports the notion that the public and private sectors need to work closely together across the various areas of the industry to combat and deal with cybersecurity issues.
But, as the issue of cybersecurity transcends national borders, Wahab ends with a comment on the future of the industry’s global necessity.
“The common concerns of each country of international cooperation include the difficulties in collecting evidence from overseas, which is time-consuming and calls for the evaluation of the host nation,” he says. “We need to cope with emerging new technologies with equally intelligent security solutions by adopting a holistic and adaptive strategy and using new cyber tools.
“At a strategic level, all parties should be fundamentally aligned with a common shared desire to develop effective strategic solutions in addressing national and international cybersecurity challenges.”