The opportunities that digital transformation presents Cambodia are significant, as are the regional ties that bind the Kingdom to its Asean neighbours. While many benefits of regional cooperation are self-evident, the cost of failing to collaborate effectively is often overlooked, particularly in relation to cybercrime.
This is a looming threat, one that knows no borders and could yet broadside the trading bloc, warn experts. These warnings come amid claims from American management consultancy, Bain & Company, that digital integration is accelerating intra-regional growth and could generate $1 trillion by 2025.
Last September, the company released a report entitled ‘Advancing Towards Asean Digital Integration’ in which it noted that the digital economy accounts for just 7 percent of Asean’s GDP. Compared with 35 percent in the US and 16 percent in China, it’s clear that Asean has been slower to adapt to the changing opportunities that technology has brought with it.
Small and medium-sized enterprises make up 50 percent of the GDP in Asean and employ 80 percent of the workforce, but contribute just 20 percent to their country’s exports on average. This is significant because while 75 percent of SMEs see digital integration as an opportunity, only 16 percent of SMEs are truly utilising digital tools, says the report. It goes on to note that of those embracing the digital revolution, 95 percent export their products.
With the intertwined fates of Asean nations and, perhaps more pressingly, their economies, the need for understanding cybersecurity grows stronger. As the region’s digital economy grows, it may present an opportunity for SMEs, but without proper cybersecurity measures it will provide plenty of opportunities to cybercriminals say Brian Hays, CEO of Cultural Cyber Security, an Australian cybersecurity firm.
“We want to isolate and place geographic borders on cybercrime activities, however, this is one of our failings,” says Mr Hays, who himself will be raising awareness of failings within the cybersecurity world at the Cyber Security Asia 2019 conference taking place in Phnom Penh this November.
“Cybercriminals don’t focus on borders – they focus on opportunities. If you connect to the internet, you’re an opportunity,” says Mr Hays, a former operations commander at Australia’s Fraud and Cyber Crime Group.
With decades of experience, Mr Hays reports that cybercrime does not discriminate in ways that more conventional crime might.
“Language tends to attack language, which can reduce or limit the attack vector,” he explains, but warns that any country can harbour a cybercriminal who is ready to attack someone anywhere else in the world.
“There is evidence today that suggests 96-99 percent of all cyberattacks launched today are targeting the individual first. We’re easier to compromise, because we’ve never been appropriately engaged and we’ve never been educated.
“Societies and organisations have fallen for the search of the holy grail – the silver bullet that removes the human element from equation. The IT market would have us believe that so it can generate billions of dollars of income is such mythology,” he says, noting that the human capacity is at the heart of preventative cybersecurity measures. This, he argues, requires cooperation.
“As the internet population has grown, so too has cybercrime. If we can get the human factor enabled, it will reduce cybercrime significantly.”