Path to Thailand 4.0 is a cyber-minefield
Our phones have become wallets, so how do we defend against the pickpockets?
As we head towards an online economy and society under the overarching vision of Thailand 4.0, cybersecurity has become
crucial to our future stability.
The dangers of a globalised Internet have already wreaked havoc at a national level elsewhere. Last year, Bangladesh’s central bank lost US$101 million when hackers raided digital vaults via the Swift banking network. More recently, Wannacry ransomware paralysed systems in countries around the world, including Thailand, extorting huge amounts of money to release data held hostage.
But with Thailand eagerly promoting the use of electronic payment methods, the number of cyber-victims here is set to skyrocket unless preventive steps are taken.
Mobile and Internet banking services are also growing in popularity as Thai banks and financial technology (Fintech) start-ups race to offer more convenience to customers.
The government is also sponsoring the PromptPay e-payment platform as it makes the move towards a cashless society.
While the benefits of moving money transactions online are obvious, so are the cybersecurity risks it brings.
Most of us wouldn’t think twice about paying a monthly home loan instalment at one of Bangkok’s popular coffee shops. Yet the unprotected free WiFi connection can also act as a gateway for cyber-thieves to divert your electronic transfer of funds. Public WiFi networks are now increasingly common – and just as insecure. Greater convenience here comes at the cost of greater risk.
Part of the solution lies in raising public awareness via education campaigns and training in how to safely negotiate the new digital services for shopping, payments and other transactions.
Smartphones are now a major target of cyber-criminals as their number and use continues to grow sharply.
In Thailand, the number of mobile phones now easily outstrips the country’s population of 65 million. Phone operators can play a helpful role by encouraging customers to install security software, especially important since more and more of us use our phones as payment devices.
The digital world is also expanding via the so-called Internet of Things. The number of devices connected up to the IoT will skyrocket to 25 billion by 2020, according to most estimates. IoT-enabled devices numbered about 9.5 billion in 2015 – overtaking the human population of 7.5 billion.
The IoT will encompass household devices such as coffee machines, refrigerators and ovens, along with medical devices like imaging machines, factory equipment and industrial machines. He potential for cyber-disruption is obvious.
Another significant threat lies in the growing use of digital fingerprints and facial recognition technology. Millions of smartphones now come equipped with this software, which is also featuring more and more in online services such as visa applications.
The resulting databases of millions of bio-identities will be the next big target for cyber-hijackers. Identity theft, already a huge problem, threatens to become a booming industry.
All these potential threats need to be studied carefully by government and private sector experts as Thailand enters the era of connected economy and society.
A new age inevitably leads to new modes of crime and transgression. The challenge is to anticipate the dangers and develop new measures to combat them.