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Industry 4.0 — today’s cyber war front

27 Nov 2018

Article by RSA vice president International, Nigel Ng

Standing on the verge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is expected to transform how businesses and nations will live, work and interact with one another. This revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, has been dubbed as the next harbinger of advancement, with many expecting it to deliver unprecedented level of productivity, as its predecessors did. 

Unsurprisingly, the anticipation around what Industry 4.0 may bring to the table has placed ASEAN—a region of relatively lower labor productivity—firmly under the spotlight. 

Management consulting firm McKinsey conducted a research on what this revolution means for the region, revealing an astounding potential economic gains of up to US$627 billion by 2025—more than 22 percent of the total GDP recorded by all ASEAN economies in 2017 Sharing the same sentiments are ASEAN businesses themselves. A survey on more than 200 ASEAN business leaders revealed that more than nine in 10 of the respondents are convinced that Industry 4.0 will enhance their business models and improve performance. 

With change comes opportunity, but also uncertainty. What is the flip side of Industry 4.0? What is lurking behind the promised business transformation, dynamic manufacturing and accelerated decision-making

Hotbed for cyber threats

Just as steam engine powered the First Industrial Revolution, digital technologies are fueling Industry 4.0. But, there’s more; they are also the culprits creating more path of exploits for cyber attackers. In other words, as ASEAN eagerly (and carelessly) adopts digital technologies—such as Internet of Things and cloud computing—it has inadvertently turned itself into attractive, vulnerable target for cyber threat actors. 

Becoming a prime target for cyber attacks comes with a hefty price tag. Judging by the region’s existing cyber preparedness, it is expected that the top 1,000 ASEAN businesses are currently at risk of losing a staggering US$750 billion in market capitalization.

Beyond dollar and cents, cybersecurity incidents can shatter customers’ confidence and cause severe reputational damage that put businesses on their back foot. Yet, despite the repercussions, digital risk management has not kept up with the rate of the adoption of digital technologies.

Hitting the sweet spot between security and risk

To make matters worse, threat actors are becoming increasingly sophisticated and malicious, evidenced by global cyber threats increasing in frequency and impact. Couple this with the global cybersecurity talent shortage—a gap which is projected to spike to 3.5 million unfilled positions by 2021—it is now virtually impossible to completely guard against all digital threats. 

Rather than focusing on an all-out prevention strategy, it is vital to adopt a three-prong unified approach to strike a balance between cybersecurity and risk functions that can help better control and manage the cyber risks faced today.

Picking the right cybersecurity battles From business disruption to loss of customers, the negative impact of cyber risks to a business is undeniable. Evidently, cyber risks are more than an IT problem, but business risks too—they should be treated as such. 

Cybersecurity strategies needs to have the context of business risk at its heart. Since not all digital risks can be deflected, security leaders must become part of the strategic team that sets and reviews business objectives, initiatives and priorities. This way, security strategies can be aligned with business priorities right from inception.

Developing ‘heartware’—the vanguard of cyber defense 

While deploying sophisticated information security technology and software is critical to achieve cyber resilience, developing ‘heartware’—the right corporate mentality and culture—can empower employees to become the vanguard of cyber defense. 

Cyber hygiene is often regarded as the cornerstone of cybersecurity. Providing employees with regular training on cyber best practices, such as flagging suspicious emails to the relevant security team, can significantly reduce risk of a breach. Such trainings help employees stay abreast of current and future security risks, and also give them opportunities to ask questions and learn from experienced security personnel.

Visibility—the cyber sword and shield 

Vulnerability touchpoints are ever increasing today, focusing only on prevention is no longer feasible. Uncovering cyber attacks in their earliest stages help to mobilize a definitive response to minimize the financial, operational and reputational impacts of these events.    What cannot be seen, cannot be protected. Visibility is a fundamental cybersecurity element to protect network assets and information. By establishing threat defense tools and services that grant pervasive visibility across the IT infrastructure, it enables rapid detection of security incidents so timely follow-ups can be taken to minimize impact on organizations.

There is no panacea for cyber threats. The digital landscape is ever-changing and there will always be a new and better strategy to managing tomorrow’s digital risks. Cyber risk needs to be viewed through a business-driven lens and with the right mentality and technologies,  cyber threats can be stopped in its tracks. This unified approach to digital risk management is the way forward to capture the opportunities of the digital future.

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