SecurityBrief Asia - Technology news for CISOs & cybersecurity decision-makers
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Rising cyber threats challenge Southeast Asia's booming digital economy
Fri, 5th Jan 2024

According to recent research by Google, Bain, and Temasek, Southeast Asia, buoyed by some of the biggest and most rapidly expanding digital economies worldwide, is on course to generate US$100 billion in revenue by the end of 2023.

The move towards digital is a vital part of the national strategy in key Southeast Asian economies like Singapore; its digital economy made up almost 20% of its GDP in 2022.

However, the swift digitisation has drawn the attention of cyber criminals, turning Southeast Asia into a cyber crime hotspot. A reported 28% of Southeast Asian businesses have seen a significant surge in cyber threats in line with the digital evolution of their operations.

As we steadily move into a digital-first age where sensitive individual and corporate data is mainly stored online, robust cybersecurity is not merely an option anymore; it is a must for Southeast Asian businesses. Experts from Ping Identity, one of the leading providers of secure and smooth digital experiences, brought some key cybersecurity trends to light that Southeast Asian companies should be aware of as we enter 2024.

Andre Durand, CEO and Founder of Ping Identity, believes that identity is fast becoming central to security and trust in an increasingly digital world. "Identity has always been a gatekeeper of authenticity and security, but over the past few years, it's become even more central and more critical to securing everything and everyone in an increasingly distributed world," he said.

"2024 is a year when companies need to get very serious about protecting their identity infrastructure, and AI will fuel this imperative. Moving forward, all unauthenticated channels will become untrustworthy by default as organisations bolster security on the identity infrastructure."

Simultaneously, the complexity of continually changing passwords is raising the risks of identity theft or data breaches. Many people end up reusing passwords which can compromise multiple logins if credentials are disclosed.

Peter Barker, CPO of Ping Identity, demonstrates how traditional passwords expose organisations to data breaches and increase users' desire for more simple, secure digital experiences. "As cyber criminals continue targeting antiquated login options to gain unauthorised access into systems, IT departments must take measures to bolster protection - with 2024 being the year when the risks associated with passwords are completely eliminated across the enterprise," Barker said.

Alex Ryals, VP Channel Sales at Ping Identity, also predicts a shift away from traditional passwords in favour of decentralised identity solutions to allow users to manage their own credentials and entitlements to various required services.

"This transition will be spurred by local and national government agencies as they grapple with the increased volume of credential and identity-based attacks," Ryals said.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is another area where experts predict significant growth in Southeast Asia in 2024. AI has infiltrated the workforce at an unprecedented rate, and the rise of AI has led to new challenges for cybersecurity, with AI-based fraud likely to accelerate to great extents in 2024.

AI also holds the potential to be misused for cyber crime, such as generating deepfakes which can increase risks related to fraud, hacking, and malicious behaviour.

Alex Laurie, SVP Global Sales Engineering at Ping Identity, warned about rising threats of deepfake scams. "In 2024, our trust will be challenged in ways we haven't faced before as the names, faces and voices of those people closest to us are used against us," Laurie cautioned.

As we enter 2024, experts stress the necessity to address cybersecurity gaps for a secured and sustained digital economy in Southeast Asia. Ignoring the need for cybersecurity is viewed as playing with the region's future, considering the rapid growth of digital transformation that drives its economic prosperity.

The concerted efforts from both public and private stakeholders are vital to harness the technology for sustainable growth while ensuring safety and resilience, the researchers state.