The world is already witnessing the knowledge, informational and technological revolution (also known as the 4th industrial revolution) that is fundamentally changing the way we work, communicate and live. At the same time this ongoing digital transformation and expanding cyberspace, the growing prevalence and severity of cyber-attacks are posing a serious threat to the global economy, job market, national security and relations between nations and regions.
A recent study titled ‘Understanding the Cybersecurity Threat Landscape in Asia Pacific: Securing the Modern Enterprise in a Digital World’, commissioned by Microsoft revealed that the potential economic loss across Asia and the Pacific region owing to cyber-attacks can hit a staggering USD 1.745 trillion, which is more than seven per cent of the region’s total GDP. The study is very timely and provides business and IT decision makers with insights on the economic cost of cybersecurity breaches in the region and identify the gaps in organizations’ cybersecurity strategies.
Cybersecurity has become a non-traditional economic and national security threat. The threats of cyber-attacks and hacking are not only there to stay but these are going to expand. The expanding cyberspace is making it easier for attackers to target infrastructure and services. The next war between rivals will be a cyber-war and the country stronger in cyber-warfare will win without taking to the battlefield. The world economic powers, such as China, Russia and the USA, are already in the state of cyber-warfare.
Cyber threats include espionage, propaganda, denial of services, data modification, hacking secret information/data, and infrastructure manipulation. A cyber-attack of propaganda means that the information about politics and military can be manipulated.
Of many, one of the most recent cyber-attacks took-place in mid of October this year in Pakistan, where some hackers entered into a Pakistanis banking security system and breach the security. Hackers hacked thousands of credit and debate cards customer’s data and stole around PKR 2.6 million from international payment cards. This shows that how week our preparedness and cybersecurity at the corporate organizational level.
The International Telecommunication Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations that is responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies, in its recent publication ‘Global Cybersecurity Index 2017 and Cyber-wellness Profiles’ ranked Singapore at first place followed by United States of America and Malaysia shared second and third rank on the global index. However, developing countries like Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh etc. ranked at the bottom of this ranking. The cyber-wellness profiles provide an overview of the countries’ levels of cybersecurity development based on the five pillars of the Global Cybersecurity Agenda namely Legal Measures, Technical Measures, Organization Measures, Capacity Building and Cooperation. The report/index highlights the potential areas for improvement and driving cybersecurity to the forefront of national plans. These publications can be useful for policymakers around the world to strategize their cybersecurity policies and plans.
In increasingly embracing Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as a key enabler for social and economic development, cybersecurity must form an integral part of our security strategies. Unfortunately, cybersecurity is not yet at the core of many national and industrial technology strategies. Countries need to be aware of their current capability to tackle this emerging challenge. There is dire need of securing the cyberspace and preparedness to hovering cyber threats. In this less human and more technology control society we should have both military as well as a civilian cyber command to cope with growing cybersecurity threats.
Lack of stringent cybersecurity measures, the asymmetry and anonymity enjoyed by cyber-attackers call for coordinated national efforts to respond to this menace. To meet the challenges, colleges and universities should produce cyber leaders and cyber managers. Countries, especially, developing and least developing countries should organize a full time civil and military cyber-warfare taskforce and there should be an international agreement on the fair and lawful use of cyberspace.
Experts believe that in a digital world where cyber threats are constantly evolving and attack surface is rapidly expanding, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming an effective tool against cyber-attacks as it can detect and act on threat vectors based on data insights. Among other measures, organizations must incorporate Artificial Intelligence in their security strategies to maintain a robust cybersecurity infrastructure.
There is an urgent need for the vulnerable countries to develop a comprehensive national strategy for cybersecurity and also need to have a separate sectoral level strategy to tackle more sector-specific challenges. Academia should have more focus on cybersecurity issues and it should be taught as a subject at school and college level to raise awareness among the public at large. To ensure individual privacy and security from cyber-attackers, we must act now.