Authored by: Dato’ Ts. Dr. Haji Amirudin Bin Abdul Wahab FASc
The COVID-19 global pandemic has become a catalyst for cyberattacks. Cybercriminals are intensifying their attacks at an alarming pace, exploiting the fear and uncertainty caused by an unstable economic situation. With organisations and businesses rapidly deploying remote systems and networks to support staff working from home, criminals are also taking advantage of increased security vulnerabilities to steal data, generate profits and cause disruption.
Cyber-attacks have certainly taken on a global scale with attacks on critical infrastructure becoming the new normal across sectors such as energy, healthcare and transportation. In 2020, suspected Vietnamese government hackers used malicious apps uploaded to the Google Play app store to infect users in Southeast Asia while Canada, the UK, and the U.S. announced that hackers had attempted to steal information related to COVID-19 vaccine development. Meanwhile, New Zealand’s stock exchange faced several days of disruptions during after a severe distributed denial of service attack was launched by unknown actors.
Cybercriminals are increasingly using disruptive malware against critical infrastructure and healthcare institutions, due to the potential for high impact and financial benefit. To counter such a massive destructive force calls for a globally integrated network and alliance in cyber defence. CyberSecurity Malaysia has always positioned itself among the top in the global cybersecurity network. CyberSecurity Malaysia is the Permanent Secretariat for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation – Computer Emergency Response Team (OIC-CERT) and also as the Chair of Asia Pacific Computer Emergency Response Team (APCERT).
To counter the onslaught of vast cybercriminal networks, we must act as fast and stay as globally integrated as they are. Domestically, private-public collaboration is key in developing technical and risk management standards and convening information-sharing forums.
On the international front, cross-border cooperation is vital to developing a rapid response to any cyber incidence. More importantly, we need to develop a greater understanding of cyber risks by sharing the outcome of research and analysis through the periodic Malware Trend Report.
Connecting global cyber-security dots
To succeed as a global cybersecurity community, there must be greater information sharing between countries to coordinate threat intelligence, incident reporting and best practices in resilience and response. Knowing that cyber-attacks are no longer a question of if but when, we need to get ready. Crisis preparation and response protocols need to be developed at both the national and cross-border level in order to recover operations as soon as possible. In the near future, regional joint-cyber drill exercises could become a reality similar to joint-military exercises to build a cyber-defence network in Southeast Asia.
As we confront an increasingly complex array of cybersecurity threats which have the potential to disrupt economic activities, critical infrastructures and even put lives at risk, the ability of nations and governments to effectively confront these threats depends on strong institutions and robust collaboration across the international community. Development of a safer and more resilient cyber ecosystem will certainly enhance national security, economic prosperity and social harmony.