By JINTANA PANYAARVUDH
WITH CYBERTHREATS inevitable in the digital age, it is the government’s responsibility to raise public awareness so the threats do not affect the economy, Israeli cyber-security experts said last week in Bangkok.
Members of the Israel National Cyber Bureau (INCB) spoke to The Nation during the “Israel Cyber Security Roadshow” held last week by the Israel Embassy’s Economic and Trade Mission.
The event came two days after the computer systems of two major Thai banks were hacked, compromising the personal data of more than 120,000 customers. The incident caused fear among consumers who otherwise appreciate the convenience of online banking.
Declining to comment on Thailand’s specific cyber-security measures, the experts said Israel was dealing with threats by raising public awareness.
Hagai Mei-Zahav, manager of international cooperation at the INCB, said it was the government’s duty to provide road signs so civilians could drive safely.
Israel had made cyber-security part of the national agenda with the mission of protecting society and ensuring that the country could undergo a digital revolution politically and economically.
Mei-Zahav said his agency regularly published warnings to help people protect themselves. Ahead of “Black Monday” online shopping sales, for example, it issues “the 10 commandments” on cyber-security, and each summer it lists the top five steps people should take when going overseas on holiday.
Cyber-attacks go beyond data leaks and infrastructure breaches, but can also slow the economy, said Dagan Alony, chief of the Israel Economic and Trade Mission in Bangkok.
He explained that the banking and online shopping systems are built on trust, and consumers sharing their personal details help turn the wheels of the economy.
“But if you don’t have trust or people are afraid to buy online, then the economy will slow down. This is one of the biggest threats on the economic scale,” Alony said.
Cyber-crime is the greatest threat to every company and is one of the biggest problems facing mankind. According to a report last year by Cybersecurity Ventures, cyber-crime will cost the world US$6 trillion (Bt200 trillion) per annum by 2021, up from $3 trillion in 2015.
The experts pointed out that cyber-threats are unavoidable since nearly everything is connected and more and more new technologies and digital services are being introduced.
“Technology has become a lot stronger now.
“Soon, we will have IoT [the Internet of Things], which will connect everything, and then everything will be under threat. That’s the equation,” Mei-Zahav said.
Though the cyberworld is getting riskier, Israel is trying to maintain security via “design or default or production”, he said.
For instance, five years ago, television |sets were vulnerable to attack, but the |latest smart TVs are being made more |secure in their design and production, Mei-Zahav explained.
‘The winter is coming’
Ruth Shoham, executive director of strategy and capacity building division at the INCB, pointed out that cyber-attacks are becoming more prevalent and all developing countries are at risk.
“We always say that winter is coming,” she said.
There is an uncertainty about the rules of the game, especially in terms of privacy and information control, she said, adding that the best way to deal with the rising challenge was to have the right operating procedures, the right technology and the right human capital.
In Israel, INCB is like an umbrella, she said, “so we know exactly which organisation is doing what to secure the network”. When there is an attack in a critical organisation, her agency responds immediately.
“We try to respond fast in order to prevent damage to civilians and organisations,” she said.
She said Israel invested heavily in the cyber industry, academia and human capital.
Israel’s 42 cyber-security firms are |ranked just after American companies in this year’s top-500 list issued by Cybersecurity Venture.
The cyber-security experts also met Chaichana Mitrpant, deputy executive director of the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA), to discuss collaboration in order to share experiences and enhance security.
Shoham said Israel does not normally send high-level officials to other countries, but cooperating on the issue with Thailand was crucial.
She said there could be collaboration at every level – both government-to-government and business-to-business.
“My division works in this industry, so we can help Thailand’s Ministry of Digital Economy and Society.
“We can send experts to Thailand to provide training and all the assistance necessary,” she said.
Alony said Israel had spent years building policies and learning from its mistakes, so joining hands with Thailand would give both sides a good opportunity to learn from each other’s experiences.
However, he said, this was just the beginning and, though no commitment has been made, he thinks it will be a win-win situation for both sides because there are no boundaries in the cyberworld.
The INCB is currently working closely with 400 global organisations and countries.