Singapore leads Asean in its cyber security policies, but the region needs to work together : Report

ASEAN companies face $750 billion in exposure from cyber attacks
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  • According to predictions, the digital economy will add one trillion dollars to Asean’s GDP in the next 10 years 
  • Asean companies face $750 billion in exposure from cyber attacks
  • Singapore invested 0.22% of its GDP on cyber security in 2017, leading Asean and ranking 3rd globally
  • Asean only spends about 0.07% of its GDP on cyber security on average, while the global spending average stands at 0.13%

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is on the cusp of a digital revolution, with predictions that the digital economy will add one trillion dollars to the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the next 10 years.

But there is also a growing digital risk that threatens to challenge cyber trust and resilience.

In fact, Asean companies face $750 billion in exposure from cyber attacks, revealed global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney in a white paper titled Cybersecurity in Asean: An Urgent Call to Action, released on Monday (Jan 23).

In the research report which analysed the Asean region, Singapore clearly led the pack in terms of its cyber security policies. Malaysia followed closely behind.

A.T. Kearney

In 2017, Singapore invested 0.22% of its GDP on cyber security, while Malaysia invested 0.08%.

Singapore ranked third globally, following Israel (0.35%) and the United Kingdom (0.26%) while Malaysia came in ninth.

A.T. Kearney

It was also clear that there is uneven distribution in spending on cyber security across the region with countries like Laos, Brunei, Cambodia, and Myanmar falling far behind.

As a whole, Asean countries are seriously under-spending on cyber security. The region only spends about 0.07% of its GDP on cyber security, while the global spending average stands at 0.13%.

This lack of preparation against potential cyber threats is frightening as the region’s “growing strategic relevance and expanding digitization make it a prime target for cyber attacks”.

“As our technological landscape changes and new threats emerge, it’s never been more important for countries, governments, and the public and private sectors to come together and collaborate to share best practices,” said A.T. Kearney partner and lead author of the report Mr Nikolai Dobberstein.

These threats are magnified because of reasons like misconceptions on the part of businesses that cyber risks are IT risks which lead to the absence of a holistic approach to cyber resilience, and a paucity of skilled talent.

For example, Malaysia currently has 6,000 cyber security professionals but requires 10,000 by 2020.

“And we can only expect the threat to get worse as attack surfaces get larger. You can only be as strong as your weakest link,” Mr Dobberstein added during a media roundtable event attended by Business Insider.

The media event was held at the Cisco Singapore office at Changi Business Park.

To cope with the growing cyber threat, A.T. Kearney says that Asean needs to: Elevate cyber security on the regional policy agenda, secure a sustained commitment to cyber security, fortify the ecosystem by not only implementing best practice guidelines in the corporate sector but also raising cyber awareness across business partners, and build the next wave of cyber security capability.

Stressing the importance of getting the region to come together to fight cyber threats, Cisco president of Asean Mr Naveen Menon said: “No one company can face a threat on its own, you need to form partnerships.”