National Payment Corporation of Vietnam to introduce domestic ‘credit chip cards’

The National Payment Corporation of Vietnam (NAPAS) will work with seven banks to introduce domestic credit chip cards with unified standards to limit cash payments and tackle black credit.

According to a report in Vietnam News, the seven banks include Việt Nam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade (Vietinbank), Bản Việt Joint Stock Commercial Bank (VCCB), Asia Commercial Bank (ACB), HCM City Housing Development Commercial Joint Stock Bank (HDB), Bảo Việt Bank (BVB), Sài Gòn Thương Tín (Sacombank) and Việt Nam Thương Tín (Vietbank).

The domestic credit chip cards are expected to be officially some time this week, the report added.

Nguyễn Quang Minh, Deputy Director with NAPAS said that the new domestic credit cards would be accepted throughout the networks of all banks while the previously-issued ones had limited acceptance.

“In developed countries, domestic credit cards are very common,” Minh said. “That banks will join with Napas to issue domestic credit cards will significantly contribute to limiting cash payments and provide more options for consumer credit to prevent black credit.”

The domestic credit chip cards had high security in accordance with the State Bank of Việt Nam’s standards and EMV standards – a security technology used worldwide for chip card payments and acceptance devices – originally developed by Europay, Mastercard and Visa, he said.

Cardholders will not have to pay fees for transactions with an interest-free period of up to 55 days compared to the typical 45 days. The acceptance points would have to pay fees of about 1.1-1.3 per cent of the transaction values, lower than other credit cards.

The fees for cash withdrawal would be about 1-2 per cent of the transaction value (a minimum of VNĐ10,000-20,000 per transaction) also much lower than the fee of about 4 per cent of other international credit cards.

According to statistics from the Việt Nam Bank Card Association, operating domestic credit cards saw a decrease of 10 per cent in 2017-20 and new issuances fell by 36 per cent. Previously, four State-owned commercial banks issued domestic credit cards but the issuance was temporarily halted due to inefficient operation.

Some joint-stock banks already issued this type of card but without unified technical standards, according to reports.

Mobile money pilot

In March, to accelerate cashless payments and financial inclusion, Vietnam’s Prime Minister has approved the Mobile Money pilot project. The pilot project aims to contribute to the development of non-cash payments and the access and use of financial services, especially prioritising rural, mountainous, remote, border and island areas of Vietnam.

 

Digital Week Northeast Asia 2021 outlines region’s trends

Digital Week Northeast Asia 2021, W.Media’s second installment of their virtual Cloud & Datacenter conferences, kicked off yesterday with an overview of the region’s digital trends.

Delivering the opening address was a joint team from Cushman & Wakefield, Kevin Imboden, Director of Research and Summer Chen, Associate Director of, Cushman & Wakefield Greater China., They were able to give the audience a detailed overview on the digital infrastructure landscape post COVID-19 and the factors changing the dynamics of the commercial real estate market.

This was followed by a panel discussion on “Next-gen Technologies: Artificial Intelligence, 5G and IoT”, moderated by Anand Prasad, Founder & CEO, wenovator LLC. Francois Chabaudie, CEO, NEOMA; Executive Advisor Gaurav Patni, and JR Reagan, CEO/President, IdeaXplorer Global. The panel discussed Korea’s untact economy, how to use AI to supercharge the power of an organisation’s analytics, and the proliferation of 5G across the Northeast Region.

The morning session finsihed off with a keynote by Onion Technology’s CEO, Chango Cho, “Future pProofing Hyperscale Data Centre Ooperation through Data Centre Control Systems”. He specifically addressed three variables: scale, speed and security. “Software needs to be purpose-built for various aspects of data centres and needs to integrate with Building Management Systems, Electrical Power Management Systems, amongst others,” said Chang.

Onion covers 80 percent of market share of large enterprise data centres in South Korea. Cho detailed the different ways software for racks monitoring, energy and environment monitoring is improving the ways companies monitor various their data centers in real time. 

In the afternoon, the Digital Week: Korea session began with an opening address by Joon Hwa Song, Chief Research Officer, Korea Data Center Association. The first panel of the afternoon was on the topic “Digitalisation at the C-Suite Level: Optimising Company Culture for a Digital Future”, which included Jae Lee, VP of Engineering at, Quincus, and Josh Hwang, Vice President at Rescale. The panel was moderated by David Yang, Executive Director, Korea Scoring.

The discussions centred around how companies can go about digitalisation in the backdrop of the pandemic. Concepts such as “Fail Forward” which included the ability to try out a business/technology strategy without worrying about future failure were discussed. Also, this concept needs to be aligned with the objectives of the C-Suite without which it would lead to more complications, the panellists said.

Sustainability

The conference finally turned to the all-important topic of sustainability. Ian Bitterlin, Consulting Engineer & formerly Visiting Professor, University of Leeds presented to the audience “Datacenters: Buying Your Way to Sustainability”. Bitterlin pointed out that consumption of electricity by data centres is on the rise. “Already 15 per cent of the electricity in Singapore’s national grid is being used to power data centres, and that will double by the end of this decade,” he said. Bitterlin lastly touched upon how renewable energy and conventional thermal power needs to be mixed, to fulfil the power requirements of data centres.

This keynote was followed by one on the topic of Cybersecurity, led by Chanwoo (Richard) Lee, Information Security Engineer for, Coupang. [Organisations] should keep in mind the possible threats big or small. It is a two way strategy. It involves prevention of cyber attack and identification of the problem as well as how critical is the problem,” he said. Then Jungsoo Kim of AWS joined the session, granting some insight into how organisations like Amazon are leveraging Korea’s rapid digital transformation to drive business growth.

To close out the first day of Digital Week, we heard from Professor Tumennast Erdenebold of Woosong University on “The Future of Blockchain and Cloud Computing in Korea”. This expansive address covered the latest trends in fintech and crypto: from digital wallets to NFTs. 

Miss out on Digital Week Day 1? Not to worry–all the sessions are now available to stream on our conference platform. You can tune in on Wednesday, 21st April to hear the Hong Kong and Japan Sessions live, as well as the Mainland China and Taiwan sessions on Thursday, 22nd April, the final day of the Digital Week: Northeast Asia Conference.

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45 percent of adult internet users in India faced identity theft in 2020: Norton Cyber Safety report

According to a Norton Cyber Safety Insights report, about 45 percent of adult internet users in India faced identity theft in some way or the other in 2020.

Indians are amongst the most targeted groups in the world in terms of cyber threats. Norton claims that the threats that adult Indian internet users faced has increased by 40 percent since 2019.

59 percent of adult Indian internet users faced cybercrime through 2020. While it is not clear as to the stipulated financial cost incurred as a result of cyber-attacks, Norton stated that Indians spent a total of 1.3 billion hours collectively attempting to resolve cybercrime crises, which means an average of 36.7 hours per person throughout the year. About 2.7 crore Indians are believed to have faced identity threats in 2020. Added a media report.

“Many Indian consumers are taking proactive steps to safeguard their data, but two in every five still feel it is impossible to protect their privacy in this age – or say they don’t know how to do so. It is therefore crucial for consumers to seek expert advice and take active measures to safeguard their online privacy,” said Ritesh Chopra, Norton LifeLock’s director of sales, India and SAARC.

The report further underlined the impact remote working has had on cyber security, Norton claims a number of 70 percent of all adult users projected in the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic as a side effect of users living without an enterprise grade security.

Since the beginning of the pandemic and even earlier, the cases of cyber-attacks have been a matter of concern for many. Phone scams and phishing emails have been on a rise and with people adopting a remote working environment due to the pandemic cyber breaches have become easier. In the current situation, it becomes important for people and organisations to understand the importance of cyber security and the possible threats.

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McAfee observes an increase in cyber-attacks by 114 percent in Q4 2020

The constant surge in the number of COVID-19 cases across the world has led to businesses adopting a work from home environment which has increased cyber-attacks due to vulnerable securities.

As the pandemic began to surge around the world, the IT security firm McAfee saw a 605 percent increase in Q2 2020. These attacks again increased by 240 percent in Q3 and 114 percent in Q4.

McAfee had recently released its Threats Report: April 2021, examining the cybercriminal activity related to malware and the evolution of cyber threats in the third and the fourth quarters of 2020. McAfee Labs observed an average of 648 threats per minute in Q4 which is an increase of 60 threats per minute over Q3. The Powersheel threats surged 208 percent due to the increase in Donoff malware activity. Added a media report.

“The world and enterprises adjusted amidst pandemic restrictions and sustained remote work challenges, while security threats continued to evolve in complexity and increase in volume. Though a large percentage of employees grew more proficient and productive in working remotely, enterprises endured more opportunistic Covid-19 related campaigns among a new cast of bad-actor schemes. Furthermore, ransomware and malware targeting vulnerabilities in work-related apps and processes were active and remain dangerous threats capable of taking over networks and data, while costing millions in assets and recovery costs”, said Raj Samani, McAfee fellow and chief scientist.

The McAfee report further added that malware was the most reported cause of security incidents. The McAfee Labs observed 588 threats per minute, an increase of 169 threats per minute (40 percent) in Q3 2020 over Q4 which observed 648 threats per minute, an increase of 60 threats per minute (10 percent)

Incidents related to new vulnerabilities increased 100 percent in Q4, malware and targeted attacks increased by 43 percent and account hijacking increased by 30 percent.

McAfee observed a 100 percent surge in the publicly disclosed cyber incidents in Europe from Q3 to Q4, an 84 percent increase in Asia and 36 percent in North America.

McAfee observed about 3.1 million external attacks on the cloud accounts, aggregating and anonymising cloud usage data from more than 30 million McAfee Cloud users worldwide during Q4  of2020. This data represents companies from the Financial Services, Healthcare, Public Sector, Education, Retail, Technology, Manufacturing, Energy, Utilities, Legal, Real estate, Transportation and Business Services.

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The use of Artificial Intelligence in Financial Services

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the holy grail of every organisation, as it tries to better understand its customer. This is especially the case post COVID-19, as user behaviour has undergone a change and is continuing to evolve. Businesses, especially financial institutions are going through the most interesting transformation seen in recent times. This has been powered by AI, amongst other technologies.

Role of AI in making the functioning easier at the organisation

Increasingly companies are trying to leverage AI to understand their customers and get further insights in their areas of operation.

“Artificial intelligence helps to boost business, it has avoided human intervention. It has helped the businesses to reach out to multiple customers, stakeholders, the business conglomerates in a matter of just click”, according to Vinod Nair, Service Head, Data centre operations, HDFC Ergo.

Giving the example of a customer looking for a credit card online he explained how AI focuses on the behaviour of the customers and then gives the result. There are instances where people get calls from banks asking if they require a credit card. It is because of the AI aspect which organisations focus on people look for credit card details online and the AI learns about that behaviours and comes back with a result. As a result of which banks don’t need to go door to door to ask people if they need a credit card. AI makes their jobs easier.

With a reduced human interaction, AI helps in understanding the consumer behaviour and giving the results to the backend with the help of which organisations have an easier functioning.

Feeding the right information is extremely important when working with AI. Incorrect information will lead to incorrect results. In order to store the correct data, data categorisation and data centralisation play an important role.

“The common core area to look at this to basically understand the technical aspects of that particular design of that technology. And then reap out the benefit the way you want. Any organization will have their own set of benefits to reap out.  Financial Services have their own set of benefits to reap out, shipping and logistics have their own”, said Vinod Nair.

Role of AI in preventing fraud and cyber attacks

In the current situation of the COVID19 pandemic, everything has shifted to the virtual world. People are working from home, have shifted to the digital mode of payment and shopping. This increases the risk of fraud and cyber attacks. Companies are taking various measures to safeguard their organization from cyber attacks.

It is important for any organization to follow the IT security policy, if not done correctly things could go for a toss, stated Nair.

According to a report in TechRadar, Cybersecurity developers will themselves use AI in preventing the cyber attack by detecting the security issues before an advantage can be taken. AI helps in the detecting and analyzing a threat before it could cause any harm.

The developers in the future may also embed AI in the user interface in order to warn people about risky websites or poor quality security.

The report further also mentioned a study that was carried out by Michel Cukier, a researcher of University of Maryland, computer hacks have become extremely frequent and occur on an average of every 39 seconds. Majority of cyber attacks are done using an automated script that crawls through databases.

Different companies have different sets of technologies that work in order to prevent the organisations from cyber attack. Every technology has its set of limitations companies choose the ones which suit their needs and requirements.

A Mordor Intelligence report added that the cybersecurity market is expected to reach USD 352.25 billion by 2026 with a CAGR of 14.5 percent during 2021-2026. This is because of an increase in the trends for IoT, AI, Machine learning and BYOD in cybersecurity.

Future of AI in the financial services sector

The understanding of consumer behaviour makes it easier for organisations to implement changes and keep up with the new trend. “The usage of AI in different areas of the financial sector is making their functioning easier,” noted Nair.

He further added that AI would work in different ways for different organisations, they work on the ones which would benefit them the most depending upon their business model and strategies. So anything that is too young in the industry, such as used cases of AI will take some time to develop further.

Giving an example of the mobile phone that we use are majorly used to making calls, to connect to other people over Whatsapp and other social media applications, check our emails and lock our phones. “But there are a lot of other features which are there on our cell phones and we might not be aware about the same. In the case of AI it is important that organisations understand the correct use of AI and use it to the fullest,” noted Nair.

“But every day the competition changes, there’s a new technology. And to keep yourself competitive in the market, you have to adopt the new technology. Tomorrow if it’s not meeting the market requirement, or I’m getting something as a substitute with a lesser cost. I will offer a new technology rather than going for an existing one. If you ask the question for today, it is nice. But tomorrow I don’t know whether the technology will have this substitute or for any other technology. It’s a good one, machine learning, AI, but there could be a substitute of anything tomorrow”, said Nair.

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India based discount stock broker Upstox suffers data breach

Upstox, an India based discount stock broker that enables its users to buy and sell shares suffered a data breach which has exposed some important data of people including their bank account number and their personal information like mobile number and email address.

“We have upgraded our security systems manifold recently, on the recommendations of a global cyber-security firm. We brought in the expertise of this globally renowned firm after we received emails claiming unauthorized access into our database”, the company said.

The company further added that the funds of its users are safe and protected, the funds can only be moved to their linked bank accounts. The shares are held with the respective depositor. The company has also initiated a secure password reset via an OTP.

According to independent security researcher Rajshekhar Rajaharia, this is the handiwork of ShinyHunters that has been involved in several hacking incidents including top Indian companies like BigBasket, BuyUcoin and Juspay. The data of 25-30 lakh Upstox users and 5.6 crore KYC files may have been leaked. Added a media report.

Ravi Kumar, Co-founder and CEO, Upstox said that the company takes the privacy and the security of its users very seriously and regret any inconvenience that it may have caused to their users. He further added that this incident has been reported to relevant authorities.

Last year in November, one of India’s popular grocery store BigBasket found that the data of over 2 crore users was hacked and was on sale on the Dark Web for over $40,000, which as per reports was the handiwork of ShinyHunters.

The hacker also leaked 19 lakh user records stolen from free online photo editing application Pixlr.

The hacker was allegedly behind over 44 public leaks in 2020 several of which are not yet listed, according to reports. The database they have contain information of over 125 crore people globally which include more than 20 crore Indians.

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Tata Communications and Bahrain Internet Exchange partner to offer internet connectivity network for Bahrain

Tata Communications, a digital ecosystem enabler and Bahrain Internet Exchange (BIX), its exclusive cable landing partner in Bahrain have partnered to offer high speed internet connectivity to their customers in Bahrain.

Supported with OTU-4 (Optical Transport Unit), a next generation optical technology, TGN-Gulf cable system will help the customers with a consistent and manageable data transport infrastructure with the capability to scale beyond 100 Gbps. This partnership will bring high speed connectivity and digital transformation to the Middle East region, the company said in a press statement.

In order to extend the TGN-Gulf cable system into the business districts within the Middle East, Tata Communications is leveraging its partnership with Oman, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, to offer a carrier neutral comprehensive cable system. This will help the businesses in the Middle East, especially the OTT, gaming companies, government agencies and hyperscalers who are expanding their reach in the region to access the global market.

The cable system integrates the Middle East countries and offers direct forward connectivity to Europe, India and the globe.

In India, it integrates into the deeply penetrated Optical Transport Network that covers more than two thousand towns and more than 25 business districts. The company added.

“Keeping pace with Bahrain’s growing bandwidth requirements, the country needs new cable systems that are of high speed, well-laid and help bring global content closer to the country. BIX is excited to combine its regional expertise with Tata Communications global presence to offer end customers a technically superior submarine cable system that opens access to both the East and West parts of the world. The next generation OTU-4 technology supported by TGN helps our customers create an intelligent Software Defined Network (SDN) enabling them to serve their customers. This is a great value-add, not just for our customers but also for our country”, said Shaima Al Hamed, Executive Director, Bahrain Internet Exchange (BIX).

“We are happy to further strengthen our partnership with BIX in Bahrain and bring the latest technology to support data intensive consumer applications like e-commerce, online gaming, mobile and internet banking, industrial automation and Internet of Things (IoT) requiring extremely reliable high-capacity networks. This will give our global customers and partners in Bahrain open access to our TGN-Gulf cable system with high-capacity low latency data transmissions across the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa and European regions. Our latest OTU-4 technology upgrade is also a step in the direction to continue focusing on strengthening and providing the Government and enterprises an ecosystem of holistic solutions. It also opens access to a technically superior submarine cable system that provides Bahrain a reliable, scalable, flexible, and secure infrastructure to collectively collaborate and smoothly function in a contactless work environment”, said Vaneet Mehta, Region Head, Middle East, Central Asia & Africa, Tata Communications.

The superior OTU-4 technology on the TGN cable system will provide flexibility to future proof and create a software-defined network (SDN), and being compatible with legacy systems. It will also help the enterprises to adopt edge computing and make use of cloud express connect to link to the different cloud nodes in and out of Bahrain.

Further, it will also improve the performance and stability of the enterprises data, voice and video applications at shorter round- trip delay (RTD).  This will help the enterprises with their digital transformation journeys.

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Digital Week: Where is Digitalisation in the C-Suite

The world has entered a new, unexpected phase of digitalisation, driven by an urgent need for operational innovation. But is this technological transformation outpacing our cultural transformation?

Accenture recently released a report based on an analysis of 2,000 directors from 100 of the world’s largest banks.

The report found that while banks are ramping up their technology investments to keep pace with changing consumer demands, the Boards of these banks lack the technology expertise to minimise the risks and maximise the benefits of their technology investments.

One can replace “banks” with any other industry and the results would more or less be the same. If management guru Peter Drucker would have been alive, he would have surely rephrased his saying: “Technology culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

In South Korea– a global leader in broadband usage and innovation– the government has actively lent its weight behind a nationwide digital push. But does the wide adoption of new technologies that this country sees amongst its population translate to tech-savviness at the C-Suite level?

We’re gathering experts for a dynamic panel discussion on this very topic at our upcoming Digital Week.

 

Northeast Asia’s Best and Brightest

Digital Week is an opportunity for IT professionals from across Northeast Asia to network with peers, engage with experts, and attend exclusive product demos. From April 20-22, we’re gathering APAC’s best and brightest for a 3-day virtual conference to cover everything from datacenter deployment to digital banking. You can get a chance to network with 1000+ Senior IT leaders from IBM, Rakuten, AWS, Foxconn, HSBC and more.

A power packed panel discussion on “Digitalisation at the C-Suite Level: Optimising Company Culture for a Digital Future”, attempts to answer the many questions and dilemmas faced by the ‘born before the cloud’ companies.

The panel includes Jae Lee from Quincus, a leading tech provider that  enables faster and more reliable shipments through supply chain optimisation. Joining Lee would be David Yang from Korea Scoring: a data scientist and an expert on RPA Consulting and Project Management. The panel will also include Josh (Jong-Hyun) Hwang, General Manager for Rescale’s Korea, a cloud management and high-performance computing business. We’re looking forward to hearing what they have to say about the impact that digital fluency in an organisation can have on its future success.

Registration for Digital Week is free and we are adding content to our event platform each day, so sign up today to get the most out of your Digital Week experience.

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Airtel to offer cyber security solutions to Indian govt

Indian communications solutions provider Airtel has joined a select group of companies to be empanelled by Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) – India’s National Incident Response Center for cyber Incidents across India.

With this empanelment, Airtel will be able to offer its cyber security solutions to Union and State Governments as well as Public Sector entities, in addition to corporate customers. Airtel provides end-to-end managed security services to enterprise customers under Airtel Secure, which combines Airtel’s network security with cutting-edge solutions delivered through global partnerships, the company said.

Ajay Chitkara, Director & CEO – Airtel Business, said: “Airtel is trusted by over one million enterprises of all sizes. The CERT empanelment is a major milestone in our journey to becoming the preferred partner for enterprises when it comes to security, which is a top priority in today’s digitally connected world.”

As part of Airtel Secure, Airtel has set up a state-of-the-art Security Intelligence Centre that rates amongst the best in India with access to advanced technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI)/ Machine Learning (ML) tools to track and mitigate potential online threats. From end point protection, email protection to cloud DDOS protection and more, Airtel Secure has strategic partnerships with global leaders such as Cisco, Radware, VMWare, and Forcepoint.

Learn more about cyber security by joining W.Media Digital Week South Asia from April 28-30.

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Japan seeks help from Taiwanese semicon companies after recent fire

Japan has sought help from some Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturers, after a fire had hit one of the chip plants, according to a Reuters report.

Industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said: “We are in communication with several manufacturing equipment makers (in Taiwan) to speed up procurement.” Earlier this month, A Renesas Electonic Corp-owned Naka chip plant in northeast Japan was hit by fire earlier this month due to a power surge in one of the machines.

This move is seen by the industry as an alternative approach for production of semiconductors, at a time when there is a shortage of semiconductors.

After the cabinet meeting, Kajiyama also added that the ministry will work together for a swift recovery by using all possible means.

The company, which has about a 30 per cent share of the global market for microcontroller unit chips used in cars, had initially said 11 machines were damaged in the fire. However, it now believes the situation is more serious than first thought.

An extended outage could add to a global shortages of chips which is disrupting some production of cars and electronic devices, Reuters said.

The Japanese government has called on equipment makers to help Renesas restore its production, with bureaucrats contacting companies at home and overseas to request they provide parts and machinery to the fire-hit company, a trade ministry official had told Reuters. Earlier this month, South Korea granted its approval to chipmaker SK Hynix for its $106 billion project to build a semiconductor complex.

South Korea said the latest investment is expected to ease supply shortages in the global market as well. South Korea’s exports of chips increased 5.6 per cent to $99.1 billion in 2020.

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Indonesia requests non-bank financial institutions to place data centres inside country

Financial Services Authority of Indonesia (OJK) has issued a new regulation that prohibits non-bank financial institutions to place their data centres and disaster recovery centres outside the country’s borders.

They can host their data centres overseas, only after receiving approvals from the authorities.

Indonesian authorities have formulated a regulation, denoted as POJK 4/2021, regarding the implementation of risk management in the use of information technology by non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs). Insurance companies, pawnshops, pension funds, fintech businesses, and social security administration bodies are among the types of institutions being regulated.

POJK 4/2021 has been taking into effect since March 17, amid the increasing IT adoption in the country’s financial sector. Accordingly, based on the size of the company’s assets, NBFI will have to operate a data centre or back up its data generated from IT deployments.

Companies with assets up to IDR 500 billion (about $34,6 million) are only required to back up data, while companies with larger assets from IDR 1 trillion (about $69,3 million) or the majority of their business operations are carried out using IT are required to have both a data centre and a disaster recovery centre.

Geographical factors are among the most strictly regulated provisions. “NBFIs are required to place its data centre and disaster recovery centre in the territory of Indonesia,” Binis quoted a statement from the authority on March 22.

Promulgated by Indonesian Ministry of Law and Human Rights and stipulated by OJK Board of Commissioners, POJK 4/2021 only allows abroad placements of data centres when NBFI meets a number of conditions related to the regulations of its country of origin, the specific business practices of its parent company, or the scale of its customers.

Chairman of the OJK Board of Commissioners Wimboh Santoso wrote in a summary of POJK 4/2021 that its issuance solves the lack of regulations regarding risk management in the use of IT in various types of NBFIs. He also underlinded that the country encourages companies to use IT in order to boost productivity and business, though it is critical to pay attention to risk management measures to prevent potential hazards to its consumers.

As companies are increasingly exploiting technologies such as machine learning to operate the big data of consumers, nations are beginning to look at the information as a new national resource and enhance security over this asset. Last year, Nikkei Asia reported that Asian countries have been some of the most active in this movement, with five out of eight countries requiring to localise the storage of data collected, within their borders. Experts say that this is an effort of nations to manage the impact of the rapid digitalisation owing to the pandemic.

In 2019, Vietnam issued the Law on Cybersecurity, which requires onshore and offshore service providers to store data of Vietnamese users in Vietnam. The regulation, however, is said to decrease the country’s competitiveness in terms of foreign investments. Last year in India, a group of 30 companies, including Microsoft and Siemens, also announced in a joint statement that the proposed personal data protection law in the country would stifle competition.

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Tech investments into UAE expected to go up after Abraham Accords

The normalisation of business ties between UAE and Israel following the Abraham Accords, is starting to see a rush in technology investments.

In October 2020, Israel reached a bilateral agreement with UAE to provide incentives and protection to investors dealing with each country. Called the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement, it has opened up billions of dollars in trade and investment opportunities.

As a part of the deal, investors would be protected from arbitrary changes in regulation and political situations and will be able to transfer funds out of the country, thereby putting investors’ minds at ease.

Business uptick

Following the signing of the Abraham Accords, business has picked up steam. UAE has said that it will launch a $10 billion fund to invest in strategic sectors in Israel. This includes energy, manufacturing, water, space, healthcare and agri-tech, according to reports.

Recently, Waterfall Security Solutions, one of the leaders in OT cybersecurity, have announced their expansion into the UAE.

The Israeli cybersecurity company has opened an office in Abu-Dhabi. The normalisation of ties between Israel and the UAE, as well as several other countries in the Gulf, has generated strong interest in the region for Waterfall’s suite of unidirectional OT security products, as well as for partnerships and joint ventures with Waterfall Security.

Waterfall Security Solutions provides the strongest practical protection for industrial control system and Operational Technology networks and systems, and already protects many critical infrastructure sites in the region and throughout the world.

Waterfall counts customers in national infrastructures, power plants, nuclear plants, off-shore and on-shore oil and gas facilities, manufacturing plants, power, gas and water utilities’ companies as its clients. It has deployments throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

“Waterfall sees the Emirates as both an important market and as a gateway to the region, and we are moving quickly to provide direct support in the UAE,” said Lior Frenkel, CEO and Co-Founder of Waterfall Security. “We also recognise the importance of local support and existing customer, government and other relationships, and we are actively engaging with partners to complement our efforts in the new office.”

Waterfall’s Abu-Dhabi office is part of the company’s continued rapid expansion, despite the global pandemic and economic downturn. With the new office, Waterfall will initiate sales and marketing activities and provide solutions architecture and technical support to partners and end users.

“More investments involving technology will flow between these countries post COVID-19. Countries are interested in cybersecurity, healthcare, agri-tech and other technology from Israel,” said an analyst from a multinational research firm.

Similar to this development, the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) Registration Authority (RA), and the Registrar of Companies in the Israeli Corporations Authority, have entered into a Statement of Co-operation (SoC) to facilitate more business.

Dhaher bin Dhaher Al Mheiri, CEO of the ADGM Registration Authority, said: “In light of the UAE’s momentous signing of the Abraham Accords, we at ADGM are pleased to partner with the Registrar of Companies in the Israeli Corporations Authority to facilitate and realise the benefits arising from the increase of joint relations these two jurisdictions. We are confident that this agreement will result in fruitful outcomes for entities residing in both the UAE and Israel, serving as a gateway to valuable expansion and investment opportunities across both thriving business hubs and the wider region.

According to Dubai Customs statistics, the emirate’s trade with Israel in the five months (Sep 2020 -Jan 2021) reached a value of Dh1 billion and a volume of 6.217k tonnes. Of this, imports were valued at Dh325 million (718 tonnes), exports at Dh607million (5.4k tonnes), and transit trade at Dh98.7million (52.4 tonnes). The mutual trade expected to grow to Dh15 billion in the next few years.

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China’s “Two Sessions” impact on the Data Centre industry

Thousands of China’s political, business, and social elite converged in Beijing in March for the country’s most important political event, known as the “two sessions”. The annual gatherings of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National People’s Congress (NPC) serve as a weather vane of China’s politics, revealing the central government’s priorities and plans for the coming year. Especially, this year-2021, it marks the start of the next five-year plan (China’s 14th Five-Year Plan, 2021-2025) and marks the Communist Party’s centenary year.

Many firsts

China has for the first time unveiled an ambitious roadmap for its plans to transform into a world-leading power by 2035, which rest on technological innovation and scientific research. With further strengthening the national strategic scientific and technological strength, data centers as the infrastructure are the foundation to empower the development.

Although the Chinese government has decided to ease restrictions on foreign investments, telecommunication sector for information security purposes remain largely off-limits to foreign investment, e. g. telecom operators must be majority-owned by Chinese firms.

Cybersecurity laws require operators of telecommunication infrastructure to store collected domestic key data and personal information in China. Foreign telecommunication business must therefore store data generated by China-based internet services in China. Regulators have also limited foreign investment in value-added telecommunication services.

On Oct. 21, 2020, China published a draft of the Personal Information Protection Law (Draft). Once formally promulgated, the Personal Information Protection Law, along with the Cybersecurity Law and the Data Security Law, will be the three fundamental data protection laws in China. Though no information has been provided as to a timeline for a revised or final version of the Draft, companies doing business in China are suggested to make necessary preparations wherever possible, considering the PIPL’s potentially wide-ranging impact.

Reforms, Reforms and more Reforms

“To build a new development pattern, we must build a high-level socialist market economy system, implement a high-level opening up, and promote mutual promotion of reform and opening up” is included in one of the eight key tasks in 2021. Under the framework for the overall strategy, China has announced a further opening up of its manufacturing and financial services sectors to foreign investment with the removal of seven items from its so-called “negative list” as part of an annual review.

On June 23, 2020, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Ministry of Commerce (MOF) jointly issued two “negative lists”, both of which took effect on July 23, 2020. These two negative lists enumerate the industries where foreign investment will either be prohibited or restricted. This is a timely follow-up of the promise made in the 2020 Two Sessions about further relaxing market access for foreign investment.

Now, the “negative list” runs to just 33 items – down from 40 – and is even shorter in China’s designated free-trade zones.

On January 29, 2021, the Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges stated that in order to improve the supporting rule system for infrastructure public offering REITs and ensure the orderly development of the pilot work, in accordance with the overall work deployment of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, the Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges have formulated and issued three major business rules.

These three major business rules are the “Publicly Offered Infrastructure Securities Investment Funds (REITs) Business Measures, Publicly Offered Infrastructure Securities Investment Funds (REITs) Rules Application Guidelines No. 1-Audit Concerns and Public Offering of Infrastructure Securities Investment Funds (REITs) Rules Application Guidelines No. 2-Offering Business. All these will be implemented on trial basis.

The official release of these three rules signifies that the Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchange has made phased progress in promoting the pilot work of infrastructure public offering REITs.

The chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, Yi Huiman, mentioned the core task of “increasing the proportion of direct financing.” Infrastructure REITs are one of the direct financing tools. Shenzhen Stock Exchange currently reserves nearly 40 projects in the fields including data centers and industrial parks logistics.

Aiming to finance China’s next phase of development through digital infrastructures, including 5G, data centers, logistics centers for E-commerce, and cross-border digital trade warehouses, etc., Infrastructure REITs is regarded as an important initiative to boom digital economy. China needs innovative and structured financial instruments to share market-based risks and returns between the public and private investors.

Contrary to the Western REITs experience, China’s main goal is to support China’s digital infrastructure building. The plan specifically excluded residential and commercial real estate properties from the REITs, meaning China’s REITs are not designed to finance real estate developments and properties.

Lesson for Big Tech?

China’s antitrust enforcement remained robust in 2020 and is expected to and reach the peak in 2021. The State Administration for Market Regulation (“SAMR”) issued a flurry of new guidelines in the antitrust space that provide more guidance on its enforcement priorities and its interpretation of the law.

This could be a pivotal year.

On February 7, 2021, SAMR issued Anti-Monopoly Guidelines for the Platform Economy Sector (“Platform Guidelines”), which follows a string of actions taken by the Chinese government to regulate the internet platform sector, tightening existing restrictions faced by the country’s tech giants. Most notably, the suspension of the initial public offering by Ant Group.

Recognizing that there are difficulties and enormous discrepancy in applying traditional antitrust enforcement approaches to the platform economy sector, the Platform Guidelines come into being. It is worth mentioning that, the Platform Guidelines acknowledge the complexity of the platform economy and that a market would not necessarily be defined by reference to an undertaking’s basic services. As a result, if the platform is a distinct market or one that involves multiple related markets are took into consideration.

The state supports the innovation and development of platform enterprises, enhances international competitiveness, and supports the common development of public and non-public economies. At the same time, it is necessary to regulate development in accordance with the law and improve digital rules, and prevent the disorderly expansion of capital.

Conclusion

Every year, China’s most notable tech industry leaders are invited to the “two sessions” to help formulate a national vision for the country’s technological development. This year, new proposals from the heads of China’s biggest tech companies, including Tencent, Xiaomi, Baidu and Lenovo Group, seek to address issues such as upgrading digital infrastructure.

China has been ramping up efforts to build out and improve what it calls “new infrastructure”. The broad term applies to a variety of technologies and related areas, including 5G networks, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), high-speed rail and research institutions.

The strategy outlines how China intends to become a leading global innovation engine, catch up to the average income level of developed countries, and display world class strengths in economy, global governance and soft power, as well as green development.

To achieve its goals, China will recalibrate its reform strategy, putting greater emphasis on the quality, rather than quantity, of future growth, with technology innovation and scientific research as key.

Around 50% exporters have gone online post COVID-19: Hong Kong Trade Development Council survey

In the aftermath of COVID-19, around 50 per cent of exporters have gone digital.

Nearly half of the exporters surveyed planned to develop other product categories (45.7%) or build up online sales channels (45.4%) in 2021, according to the survey conducted by Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC).

The HKTDC conducts the Export Index survey every quarter, interviewing 500 local exporters from six major industries including machinery, electronics, jewellery, watches and clocks, toys and clothing, to gauge business confidence in near-term export prospects. The Index indicates an optimistic or pessimistic outlook, with 50 as the dividing line.

Industries embracing digital

The most popular channels for those going online included proprietary websites/applications/social commerce (77.3%) and third-party e-commerce platforms (64.9%). Some respondents also indicated they used online sourcing platforms (36.1%) or online exhibitions (19.1%), the survey said.

However, many exporters encountered difficulties when developing online sales, including intense competition in the e-commerce market (56.7%) and ineffective digital market strategies (52.6%), while some were not ready to take small orders (37.6%) or establish long-term relationships with buyers on a virtual basis (32.0%). Other commonly identified issues included potential cybersecurity risks (26.3%) and the need to train e-commerce staff (25.3%).

HKTDC Director of Research Nicholas Kwan said that many companies now offer a basket of value-added services as a way to stay competitive in the market. The most common free service offered is product design and development (67.9%), followed by preparing trade documentation (56.6%), logistics arrangement (56.6%), facilitating the attainment of quality-certification or product-testing reports (56.6%), and managing production including outward processing and quality control (52.8%).

Biz rebound in major industries

HKTDC Economist Samantha Yim said export confidence improved across all major industries. The strongest rebound was in jewellery (42.2) and toys (44.7), which jumped 9.2 and 8.8 points respectively.

Among major markets, Hong Kong exporters were relatively more confident in the United States (46.1, up 1.7 points), while Mainland China (48.0) and Japan (47.3) were on par with the last quarter. The outlook for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (45.2) and the European Union (42.9) was less promising, falling 2 and 1.1 points respectively.

“The improving export sentiment is further evident in an upward trend in the subsidiary indexes including the Trade Value Index [46.3, up 9.8 points] and Employment Index [43.2, up 1.7 points], yet the Procurement Index [33.6, down 1 point] remained subdued, suggesting exporters are worrying orders might drop in the near future,” Ms Yim said.

The HKTDC’s Research Department also conducted a series of company interviews to explore how technologies have promoted smart-city development and helped local enterprises ride out the COVID-19 challenges.

Evolving retail

HKTDC Economist Melissa Ho said the pandemic has accelerated the transformation of the retail industry. Technological solutions such as data analytics, the Internet of Things and sensors have played a pivotal role in enabling more effective retail management and providing better shopping experiences for consumers. Self-services/self-checkout kiosks, “try-before-you-buy” experiences powered by augmented reality (AR) technology, and the use of sensors for consumption-pattern analysis have become the “new normal” in the retail industry.

“Technology improves operational efficiency and enhances shopping experiences. It is important for retailers to keep up with the fast-paced change in customer needs and expectations by enhancing their capabilities and competitiveness through digital enablers,” she said.

Local companies need to upgrade and transform in four key areas amid the pandemic: developing new products, expanding sales channels, innovating marketing solutions and optimising work processes. HKTDC Assistant Principal Economist (Global Research) Louis Chan said that medical and healthcare products as well as tech-related (including 5G, artificial intelligence, and AR) products emerged with the rise of “stay-at-home” economy, while the online-to-offline business model continued to grow with cross-border e-commerce becoming a new focus.

“Content marketing on social media as well as more precise and personalised marketing backed by data analysis will become the new normal. Mobile technology-aided game marketing can help companies win support from the new generation of consumers,” said Chan.

He noted work optimisation can be achieved by applying various technologies, citing the example that automated systems supported by robots can enhance warehouse efficiency and delivery accuracy. Cloud database, remote and machine learning technology can also help optimise logistics efficiency, improve production management and reduce risks, added Chan.

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Abu Dhabi launches a Digital Programme for government employees

As a part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the department of Government Support which is represented by the Abu Dhabi Digital Authority (ADDA) & Abu Dhabi School of Government (ADSG) collaborate with the Abu Dhabi Global Market Academy (ADGMA) to launch the Abu Dhabi Digital Programme.

This programme aims at providing government employees with the latest digital skills that will help in transforming the Abu Dhabi government and economy into a digital leader. The MoU was signed in November 2020.

The ADGMA, ADDA and the ADSG will invite the government employees to be a part of this programme. The programme comprises three levels awareness, application and strategic phases. Each phase is meant to educate the participants on various digital technologies and concepts which include Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, Data Sciences and fintech.

“Digital Literacy is no longer a simple matter of adding value to existing systems, but rather, because of the rapid growth of digitisation in today’s fast-moving world, it has become a staple requirement for all government employees who wish to be the next generation of digitally-aware and technology-driven young professionals,” said H.E. Mansoor Mohamed Al Marzooqi, Executive Director- Strategic Planning Sector, ADDA.

The participants will receive a Foundations of Digital Transformation Certification on successful completion of the programme, which will equip the employees with the required skills for the jobs in demand.

“ADDA, as the body entrusted with leading the digital future of Abu Dhabi, is delighted to be an integral part of the process of achieving the goals of Abu Dhabi’s digital literacy strategy, collaborating with the Abu Dhabi Global Market Academy and the Abu Dhabi School of Government to develop and deliver this series of carefully curated programmes specifically designed to enable, promote and stimulate Abu Dhabi’s journey of digital transformation,” added H.E Mansoor Mohamed Al Marzooqi.

H.E Mansoor Mohamed Al Marzooqi also mentioned that with this programme the young talented Emiratis will play a very important role in reshaping the society for the future by delivering innovative digital solutions for the needs of the businesses and citizens.

“Our launch of the Abu Dhabi Digital Programme comes at a timely juncture as emerging and disruptive technologies continue to shape the regional and global public and private sectors. The ADGMA is pleased to be leveraging its synergies with ADDA and ADSG in taking this landmark initiative forward as we collectively contribute to Abu Dhabi’s digital ambitions. Through the programme, we look to equip eager, capable government employees with the necessary insights and knowledge to utilize and navigate pertinent digital technologies and concepts such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and fintech. Underpinned by a world-class curriculum and expert specialists, we are confident that this programme will be instrumental in Abu Dhabi’s ongoing efforts to develop a knowledge-based economy, in service of the emirate’s continued growth,” said Hamad Sayah Al Mazrouei, COO, ADGM & Managing Director, ADGMA.

The participants will first begin the programme with the Awareness Level which is designed for government employees with basic digital skills and experience in emerging technologies. Next comes the Application Level where they can specialise in the areas of AI, data science, cybersecurity or fintech. Last comes the Strategic Level where they can join any one of the three digital leadership tracks which include, the Future Digital Leader Program, the Young Digital Leader Program and the Executive Digital Leadership Program.

Cisco selects Taiwan for its first cybersecurity talent incubation center in APAC

The U.S. networking-equipment giant Cisco Systems Inc. launched a cybersecurity talent incubation center last Tuesday in the Startup Terrace in New Taipei’s Linkou. The center is operated under the auspices of the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Small and Medium Enterprise Administration.

This joint project between Cisco’s local branch and Taiwan’s Ausenior Information Co. will provide an international certification system in three years, addressing the shortage of cybersecurity professionals in this region.

Not only is Taiwan lacking at least 3,800 cybersecurity professionals among its current 21,000 staff base, but the number is set to increase by 15 per cent each year, said George Chen, senior vice president of Cisco’s Greater China operations and head of Cisco Taiwan.

Under the umbrella of the American firm’s DevNet platform, which covers nine major areas such as cybersecurity, cloud technology, and datacenters, the center acts as a platform for IT specialists’ view exchange and helps Taiwanese firms to integrate their hardware and software strengths to become more visible on the global market.

After about two decades of investing in the region, Cisco emphasised that the centre is among the most important initiatives of the company in Taiwan and is the first of its kind in the Asia Pacific region from the company.

Taiwan’s authorities said that cybersecurity has been one of the six top priorities in the government’s industrial development policy since President Tsai Ing-wen’s inauguration. During the launching event, MOEA Deputy Minister Lin Chuan-neng affirmed that the ministry will channel all available resources to fast-track the development of top-tier professionals from the center.

Taiwan’s Executive Yuan is also planning to establish a NT$809 million (US$28.62 million) national cybersecurity excellence center, added Lin.

Is Taiwan ready to become a global digital innovation hub?

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Cybersecurity budgets cannot be compromised in a crisis: KPMG 

Cyber cost optimisation is essential throughout a disaster, KPMG in Malaysia highlights, noting that corporations ought to revisit their general value effectivity and increase investment in cybersecurity as a necessary part of their digital transformation plan.

The financial uncertainty amidst the present pandemic has led to rising pressures for organisations to comprise prices.

These budgetary issues also apply to cybersecurity spending, which is usually reduced despite the ever-present risk of cybersecurity breaches.

According to KPMG Malaysia, an important part of corporations’ digital transformation plan is to revisit their general value effectivity and bolster funds channeled to cybersecurity.

Instead of investing in the newest expertise, KPMG emphasized the importance of strategically investing in a strong cyber protection function.

“Achieving value effectivity whereas sustaining sturdy cybersecurity controls is a posh job at the most effective of occasions, and much more so in the midst of a pandemic,” KPMG’s Cyber head Jaco Benadie noticed.

“While organisations considerably elevated their investments into digital adoption final 12 months to deal with the brand new regular, cybersecurity are usually relegated as an afterthought in favour of enabling buyer engagement on-line and enhancing worker mobility.”

A global threat intelligence exchange network Kaspersky reveals that it has detected a 33% rise in web threats in the country last year.

Amongst the noticeable factors behind the uptrend of web threats in Southeast Asia were the web-skimmers, which is a form of internet or carding fraud where a payment page on a website is compromised has grown by about 20%. The majority of the web threats were targeted at home users in Malaysia, 17.7%, whereas business users at 7.1%.

Citing a current incident in January, a hacktivist group had threatened to hack authorities web sites and on-line belongings, Benadie added that the federal government’s initiative to extend cybersecurity uptake amongst companies using the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint is definitely well-timed and showcases their dedication to double down in opposition to cyber threats.

“Not solely do organisations face mounting value pressures on account of prolonged restricted motion management orders, in addition, they want to make sure their safety can defend in opposition to adversaries within the evolving risk panorama.

“This in fact implies that they’ve to make sure they make investments adequately and are capable of strike the best steadiness of their budgets.”

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Malaysian government provides $997 million stimulus for nationwide digitalisation

The Malaysian government has announced that it will allocate a series of funds worth $997 million (RM4.1 billion) to the country’s tech scene as part of its efforts to drive nationwide digitalisation.

This initiative forms part of the government’s latest stimulus package, PEMERKASA, that aims to jumpstart Malaysia’s post-pandemic economic recovery.

5G acceleration

First, under the Universal Services Provision (USP) Fund, The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) will invest $778 million (RM3.2 billion) to improve the quality of 5G and broadband services across the country, particularly in remote areas.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said that the funds will be used to upgrade existing transmission stations and provide fibre optics infrastructure to related premises.

He also said that the country will roll out commercial 5G by phases by the end of 2021.

Digital transformation

Next, to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Malaysia, the Central Bank of Malaysia will allocate an additional $170 million (RM700 million) for the SME Automation and Digitalisation Facility (ADF).

Established by the bank in March 2020, the ADF aims to assist SMEs in their digitalisation journey.

The Malaysian government previously allocated $48.6 million (RM200 million) to the ADF under the Malaysian Industrial Development Finance Berhad (MIDF).

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin says that the initiatives would help the nation achieve four goals: increase foreign investments, strengthen Malaysia’s global trade position, boost tech adoption, and ensure overall sustainable growth.

These announcements need to be seen in the backdrop of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s efforts to give a significant boost to accelerate and create a strong digital infrastructure, under the Digital Economy Blueprint or MyDigital initiative. In line with this, recently the government announced conditional approvals to four cloud service providers (CSP) to build and manage “hyper-scale” data centres and cloud services.

“Between RM12 billion and RM15 billion will be invested CSP companies over the next five years,” PM Muhyiddin said. Further, the government has also proposed the appointment of three local ICT (information communication technology) companies as managed service providers to work with the CSPs to manage their services to agencies in the public sector.

The three companies are Enfrasys Solution Sdn Bhd, Prestariang Systems Sdn Bhd and Cloud Connect Sdn Bhd.

“As part of the measures to empower cloud computing services in the public sector, the government, through its ‘Cloud First’ strategy, has targeted the migration of 80 per cent of public data to hybrid cloud systems by the end of 2022,” said PM Muhyiddin.

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Acronis acquires South Africa’s Synapsys to fortify cybersecurity standing

Singapore-bred, Swiss-incorporated cybersecurity giant Acronis has announced the acquisition of its long-time South African partner Synapsys, making it the company’s fourth acquisition in the past 18 months.

Synapsys is the distributor of Acronis’ Cyber Protection Solutions in South Africa and across the African continent. The company works with a network of distributors, resellers, and managed service providers (MSPs) to make product and service offerings for Acronis.

Serguei ‘SB’ Beloussov, Founder and CEO of Acronis, said that this acquisition will give users direct access to the company’s technology and support.

“Africa is becoming a strategic growth opportunity for Acronis and acquiring Synapsys provides us with a permanent presence on the continent. The move is beneficial for Acronis, the African MSP channel, and the organizations and users that need to safeguard their workloads and systems against the modern threat landscape,” he explained.

The acquisition is also in line with Acronis’ ongoing Global/Local Initiative, which aims to provide expanded in-country access to the company’s worldwide resources.

Synapsys Managing Director Peter French added that clients can look forward to a closer relationship with Acronis that will boost the cybersecurity ecosystem in the region. Upon the acquisition, French will also now serve as Acronis’ General Manager for the Middle East/Africa market.

Singapore government rolls out new cybersecurity programs for critical information infrastructures

Singapore is developing programmes to establish cybersecurity standards and minimize cyber risks across the supply chain for government sectors with sensitive data.

This primarily involves Critical Information Infrastructure (CII), referring to 11 sectors responsible for the delivery of the country’s essential services, including government, energy, and healthcare.

The program, called the CII Supply Chain Programme, will involve the Cyber Security Agency (CSA), CII owners, and their vendors.

It is a continuation of Singapore’s Cybersecurity Masterplan 2020, which outlines new policies for a more secure and trustworthy cybersecurity ecosystem.

Managing risk across the supply chain

Announcing the program on Mar 2, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary noted that while all CII owners are currently required to maintain a mandatory level of cybersecurity under the Cybersecurity Act, most organizations engage vendors to support their operation.

“Therefore, we also need to manage cybersecurity risks across the supply chain,” he said in Parliament. This requires infrastructure owners to have a better understanding of their vendors to identify systemic risks and improve their level of “cyber hygiene”.

It will provide recommended processes and sound practices for all stakeholders to manage cybersecurity risks in the supply chain, said Dr Puthucheary.

The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) noted that the CII Supply Chain Programme will help infrastructure owners develop guidelines to enable them to better understand and manage their vendors, such as by ranking them according to their cybersecurity posture.

More details on the programme will be announced in the third quarter of this year, MCI said.

Zero-trust cybersecurity posture

“In the longer term, our CII sectors and companies will also need to adopt a zero-trust cybersecurity posture,” he added, this is necessary to defend against supply chain attacks by “highly sophisticated threat actors”.

“In concrete terms, this means that CII owners should not trust digital activity in their networks without verification. They should also authenticate continuously, detect anomalies in a timely manner, and validate transactions across network segments,” added Dr Puthucheary.

Resources to strengthen the digital fortress

Separately, CSA will support companies in strengthening their cybersecurity with the launch of the SG Cyber Safe Programme, as part of the Safer Cyberspace Masterplan.

“First, we will provide informational resources and educational material for key roles including C-suite executives, cybersecurity teams and frontline employees, based on their specific roles and knowledge needs,” said Dr Puthucheary.

An employee cybersecurity toolkit will be introduced by the end of this year.

Cybersecurity “Trustmark” for firms

CSA will also introduce a voluntary Cyber Safe Trustmark for enterprises that have achieved a high standard of cybersecurity.

The industry consultations on the specifics of the trustmark to begin in April, and it is expected to be introduced by early next year, he added.

A recent survey has shown that there is a widening gap between cybersecurity needs and capabilities. For CII, this exposes the availability of the essential service in Singapore to hacking threats.

Singapore’s success in digitalisation has exposed new vulnerabilities, which will only grow as technologies evolve and become more complex, said Dr Puthucheary.

The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) reported that 9,430 cybercrime cases were reported in 2019, accounting for 26.8% of overall crime in the island state.

As Singapore continues to equip itself to become Asia’s post-pandemic digital hub, it needs to ensure the “companies and people to be aware of the risks, vigilant of their manifestations, and make informed choices to protect our safety”, he added.

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64% of Singapore workers share critical data via messaging apps: Veritas

While 24 per cent were reproved, 75 per cent said they will continue the use of these tools

64 per cent of Singapore office worker employees have admitted to sharing sensitive and business-critical company data using instant messaging (IM) and business collaboration tools. However, Singapore workers still have better cybersecurity hygiene than other countries in the APAC region, found a survey by Veritas Technologies, a global leader in data protection.

The Veritas Hidden Threat of Business Collaboration Report, which polled 12,500 office workers across ten countries, including 500 from Singapore.

Among all the workers surveyed, 54 per cent are saving their own copies of the information they share over Instant Messaging apps, while, conversely, 53% of knowledge workers delete it entirely. Either approach could leave companies open to significant fines if regulators ask to see a paper trail.

Sensitive data being shared by employees on these channels includes client information (15%), details on HR issues (13%), contracts (13%), business plans (12%), and even COVID-19 test results (10%), with only 36% employees suggesting that they hadn’t shared anything that could be compromising.

The research also reveals that, while employees are using collaboration tools to close deals, process orders and agree pay raises, many are doing this despite believing that there will be no formal record of the discussion or agreement. In fact, only 52% thought that the businesses they worked for were saving this information.

Andy Ng, Vice President and Managing Director for Asia South and Pacific Region at Veritas Technologies, said: “Many businesses have been caught off guard by the global pandemic at the start of 2020. To minimise work disruptions and keep up with the new work model, companies are rushing to bolster their data protection and discovery strategies to include the platforms where their business is actually being done.”

Indeed, due to the sudden shift to online working during the pandemic, a significant amount of business is now being conducted as routine on these channels and employees are taking agreements as binding. For example, as a result of receiving information over messaging and collaboration tools, 24 per cent of employees have accepted and processed an order, 20% have accepted a reference for a job candidate and 18% have accepted a signed version of a contract.

Sensitive data is being shared on these tools in spite of the fact that 24 per cent of knowledge workers have been reprimanded by bosses for their use of them. These admonishments may have been in vain, however, as 75 per cent of all workers responding to the survey said that they would share this kind of information in the future.

Ng said: “Our message to bosses is simple: don’t fight it – fix it. It is proving to be an uphill battle to restrict employees to ‘approved’ methods of communication and collaboration tools. It will be more effective to adopt proactive measures that will help to regain control of information sharing.”

IM apps trusted nearly as much as emails

The ability to archive business discussions as evidence is crucial to ensuring that an agreement is binding. However, many workers do not appear to trust methods of communications based on this ability.

In the survey, email is viewed as the most reliable affirmation of an agreement at 98 per cent, followed by written letter at 95 per cent and electronic signature at 93 per cent.

Worriyngly, IM was still trusted by 93 per cent, SMS text by 90 per cent and WhatsApp by 87 per cent. 63 per cent even viewed social media as reliable proof that something has been agreed

Ng said: “With work-from-everywhere, business data is sprawling across different locations. Deals are closed, orders processed and sensitive personnel information are being shared on collaboration platforms. It is a business imperative for companies to incorporate the management of this data deluge into their protection and compliance strategies. The implications could be huge if they fail to do so.”

Singapore as the more security-aware APAC country

The research also shows that countries differ in their level of cybersecurity awareness.

34 per cent of workers would accept an order over an instant messaging app and start processing it globally. But regional differences exist – 49 per cent in China would action the sale, but only 35 per cent in Singapore and South Korea would do the same

While more than 70 per cent office workers in China and South Kore save their own copies of information shared over instant messaging apps, only 54 per cent of employees in Singapore do the same.

Willingness to use business applications for personal purposes also varied significantly. 42 per cent of Singapore employees have used corporate applications for personal conversations compared to 57 per cent of employees in both China and South Korea.

30 per cent of respondents having been reprimanded by their employer for their IM use. The number increases to 40 per cent in South Korea but goes down to 24 per cent in Singapore.

Veritas recommends the following steps for businesses that want to regain control of data being shared over messaging and collaboration tools:

  1. Standardise on a set of collaboration and messaging tools that meet the needs of the business – this will limit the sprawl.
  2. Create a policy for information sharing – this will help control the sharing of sensitive information
  3. Train all employees on the policies and tools that are being deployed – this will help to reduce accidental policy breaches
  4. Incorporate the data sets from collaboration and messaging tools into the businesses’ data management strategy using eDiscovery and SaaS data backup solutions – this will empower users to make the most of the tools without putting the business at risk.

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How DCs should plan in a pandemic

With the Covid-19 pandemic, disaster preparedness has become the ‘New Normal’.

Lockdown efforts, which have been seen as essential in many countries, to safeguard citizen’s lives, seems to be the way forward. In line with this, the first and an essential step for management in a data centre, is to develop a specific pandemic preparedness and response plan.

“Share the pandemic plan with all employees, stakeholders, vendors, suppliers and key customers. Establish a system whereby elements of the plan are tested, updated and changes disseminated on a regular basis,” pointed out Hideaki Fujimaki, CEO, Spiralgroup.biz Ltd.

Efforts need to be ongoing

The pandemic has also forced organisations to address gaps in the preparedness and recovery plan on an ongoing basis, rather than a one-time effort. “The pandemic plan should incorporate a tiered response, clearly identifying the actions to be taken at each level and the circumstances that would trigger implementation of the next level,” stated Fujimaki.

Most organizations have a three to five-level contingency plan, ranging from pre-pandemic) operations, to taking reasonable precautions, through lights-out operation and, in worst cases, a complete site shutdown with transfer of critical applications and operations to backup sites.

“The plan should be practised or role-played if possible. At every level, the plan should clearly identify the trigger(s) to implement that level, the decision-makers authorized to direct escalation to that level and the appropriate actions for operations,” said Fujimaki.

This should include policies for facility access, on-site activities, staffing and sanitization.

Also, in such a scenario, with IT assets being critical, maximum acceptable downtime, reduction in redundancy and/or recovery time for all equipment, disruption or failure response procedures, minimum acceptable staffing levels, should be factored in. Additionally, staff protection by using temperature checks, contact tracing, reporting of symptoms, site access, minimum acceptable levels of critical on-site activities, such as equipment maintenance have to be in place, noted Fujimaki.

A tiered-response plan should include plans to meet the challenges of operating with reduced staff, including situations in which staff may be unable to access the site or may need to leave the site on short notice. It should include a staffing threat matrix for various scenarios of employee absenteeism, according to Fujimaki.

There is also a need to look at potential alternatives. Where practical, organisations should include provisions for the use of third-party staff, as a contingency measure.

“Recognise that any change from normal processes can increase the risk of human error or extend response times in case of emergency,” said Fujimaki. The plan should make provisions for a multi-peak/wave pandemic, taking into account a second wave, possibly only weeks after the first and possibly worse, when supplies and finances are depleted, staff is fatigued, and maintenance has been deferred. “Multiple waves/seasonal re-occurrences may also be likely. Long-term contingencies, which could include vaccine unavailability, critical supplier going out of business, should be considered and planned for as well.

Protecting the Business

Management should confer with insurance companies and legal advisors on relevant items, such as cleaning requirements, service level agreements (SLAs), notifications, etc. For data centers in areas where there is no clear regulatory mandate, management should decide — in consultation with insurance companies, legal advisors, Human Resources (HR) departments and other business unit(s) — at which response level to institute certain response measures, noted Fujimaki.

Some data centres are officially considered to be part of the critical national infrastructure. While this may confer some advantages, such as priority access to fuel, it may also mean that plans need to be shared with and agreed to by overseeing authorities. As part of the strategic plan development, clarify the status of key data center workers (whether they are classed as essential workers) and of the data center (whether it is deemed part of the nation’s critical infrastructure). Determine precisely what these terms means, as it could differ in every country and what documentation is needed for situations involving staff travel, shortage of fuel, amongst others, said Fujimaki.

Even with the best planning and communication, a pandemic is likely to have an impact on a data centre’s operations’ budget. The Executive management will need to assess the situation and prepare accordingly.

Government support is available in many countries. Beyond that, as with the case with other abnormal events (e.g., equipment failure or severe weather event), management typically takes the reasonable approach of instructing operations team to spend what is necessary to protect staff and the data center infrastructure, keeping track of the costs. Justifications of expenditures should be examined as a part of an ongoing review process, points out Fujimaki.

Construction impact

A pandemic presents challenges for data center construction, major upgrades or extensions of capacity. Construction speed has a big impact on cost and delays in one area is bound to impact other areas and a range of suppliers. The impact of all potential disruptions, from the availability of staff to a shortage of construction material, must be assessed and weighed.

Managing supply chains

Confer with suppliers to understand the risks — current and potential — for disruptions, including possible long-term disruptions, beginning with critical spares and consumables. Understand the geographic regions where key components are sourced or manufactured, and what the available alternatives are if supply chains are disrupted, opined Fujimaki.

Also, one of the key factors which nobody is paying attention to has to do with regard to certain countries with aging population. In some geographies means that despite best efforts, the data centre industry may be more vulnerable than other industries to a pandemic. “This presents a challenge, given the existing and well-documented staffing shortages the industry faces. A more age-diverse workforce may prove more resilient,” stated Fujimaki.

What the pandemic has taught organisations is that disaster preparedness should be no longer thought of as a contingency plan but a proactive one.

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Cybercrimes expected to rise in the Philippines in 2021

Philippines Business Groups have said in a joint statement that the impact of cybercrimes in the country is expected to rise further.

Globally, it is expected to hit $6 trillion in 2021 and up to $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, as users keep ignoring firms’ notice and warnings in financial transactions. This data is based on Cybersecurity Ventures research.

“We strongly urge the public to heed these notices and warnings not only for their sake but also to preserve the stability and trust in our financial system,” noted the joint statement of at least 25 groups in the Philippines, stressing its importance to the country’s pursuit of economic recovery and normalcy.

The groups said that phishing, smishing, vishing and other online fraud schemes target bank clients, credit card holders, e-wallet accounts, online shopping and other users of online financial services are under significant surges as online platform adoption became prevalent during the pandemic.

There were 869 online scams recorded from March to September last year, 37 per cent higher than the 633 incidents recorded in the same period in 2019, as cited data from the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group. Filipino internet users also encountered an increase of 20 per cent regarding online credit card skimmers last year.

“It is also paramount that law enforcement agencies act swiftly in identifying, apprehending, and bringing these culprits to justice,” the group said, calling for a massive information drive from both private and public sectors to strengthen the financial system’s defences against cybercriminals.

But businesses also need to find faults in the lack of cybersecurity in their current infrastructure and operations. Even before the pandemic, banks were losing nearly $17 billion annually from identity fraud alone, according to Javelin Strategy & Research.

As banks also embark on a cloud and digital transformation journey, cybercriminals have taken advantage of the pandemic to target remote, distracted and vulnerable workforce under a new digital work-from-home operating model.

Last month, a study by Trend Micro Incorporated reported that home networks, with the uses of Email, URLs, VPNs, were a major channel for cybercriminals looking to pivot to corporate systems. The company found attacks on homes surged 210 per cent to reach nearly $2.9 billion–amounting to 15.5 per cent of all homes.

“In 2020, businesses faced unprecedented threat volumes hitting their extended infrastructure, including the networks of home workers,” said Tony Lee, Head of Consulting of Trend Micro Hong Kong and Macau. “The new year is a chance to adjust and improve with comprehensive cloud-based security to protect distributed staff and systems”.

In an opinion piece published last month in its magazine, the London-based InfoSecurity Group advised financial companies to relook at their threat points – transmission security, network security and encryption security, train, reskill, educate, raise awareness and deploy additional security measures in their own environments as well as customers’ environments, and exploit new and emerging technology to defend its financial systems.

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Microsoft releases security updates for Exchange Server

Microsoft has released several security updates for Microsoft Exchange Server to address vulnerabilities that have been used in limited targeted attacks.

Targeted attacks often employ similar methods found in traditional online threats. These include malicious emails, compromised or malicious sites, exploits, and malware. Targeted attacks differ from traditional online threats in many ways and are typically conducted as campaigns, which makes them hard to detect.

“Due to the critical nature of these vulnerabilities, we recommend that customers apply the updates to affected systems immediately to protect against these exploits and to prevent future abuse across the ecosystem,” the Redmond-based giant said in a blog post.

The vulnerabilities affect Microsoft Exchange Server. Exchange Online is not affected, the post added.

The versions affected are:

  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2013
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2016
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2019

Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 is being updated for Defense in Depth purposes.

These vulnerabilities are used as part of an attack chain. The initial attack requires the ability to make an untrusted connection to Exchange server port 443. This can be protected against by restricting untrusted connections, or by setting up a VPN to separate the Exchange server from external access.

Using this mitigation will only protect against the initial portion of the attack; other portions of the chain can be triggered if an attacker already has access or can convince an administrator to run a malicious file.

We recommend prioritizing installing updates on Exchange Servers that are externally facing. All affected Exchange Servers should ultimately be updated, Microsoft noted.

Recently, Canadian manufacturer Bombardier suffered a cyber attack, which adds to the growing list of companies and governments who are under stress.

For further information and guidance, view the full update notice on Microsoft here:

https://msrc-blog.microsoft.com/2021/03/02/multiple-security-updates-released-for-exchange-server/

 

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Why companies should make Malaysia their data hub in Southeast Asia

Businesses in Malaysia, like their other Asian counterparts have had it rough in the last year as the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc.

For businesses, the solution seemed simple – adopt digital in their operational processes and continue to stay relevant. This relevancy means businesses need to abide by social distancing norms, zero-touch delivery, digital payments, and others.

In June 2020, Dato’ Abdul Rauf Rahid, EY Asean Assurance Leader: Malaysia Managing Partner, Ernst & Young, shared, in a note, how the start of the journey towards economic recovery is contingent on rebuilding trust and confidence in public and business realms and the deliberate intervention of the government.

“Businesses need to work hand-in-hand with the government to resume operations and kick-start economic activities. Meanwhile, the increasing need for higher technology capabilities to connect businesses, customers, and supply networks is fast-tracking the world into digitalisation. Malaysia must not be left behind,” he said.

All this also means that companies have to up their tech quotient. Naturally, this means data, data and more data at the back end. That translates into a “gold rush” moment for companies operating the non-glamorous IT infrastructure.

It is here that the government is looking to attract data centre companies as well as other infrastructure players to Malaysia.

“The (Malaysian) government is looking to accelerate the nation’s digital economy. The MSC Malaysia status provides eligible ICT-related businesses, both local and foreign, with relevant incentives and support to promote continued growth,” opined Wan Murdani Mohamad, Director, Digital Infrastructure Services, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).

Strong tech infra and data centre push

Based on the concept of industry clustering and customised infrastructure offerings, MSC Malaysia Cybercities & Cybercentres – being the designated operations sites – are where companies within a similar sector will be placed together to spur rapid growth. This is backed by strong performance standards, high-speed broadband infrastructure, reliable access to clean power and other technological components that are critical to the businesses. “Power is available at almost any location in Malaysia and in locations like Kulai Iskandar Data Exchange (KIDEX). In fact, upon confirmation of opening an office in these premises, power is available immediately with very little lead time required. Also, 100 percent renewable energy can also be made available in some locations in East Malaysia,” stated Wan Murdani.

Even as cybersecurity measures and server protection need to be adopted by data centre providers in Malaysia, national-level cybersecurity initiatives are coordinated with various related agencies. This mainly includes the National Cybersecurity Agency (NACSA) and Cybersecurity Malaysia (CSM) who, with MDEC, each play a role to facilitate the development of the local cybersecurity services industry and develop best practices to reassure companies in the event of any issues.

Redundancy and resiliency of data centres are also the responsibility of the service providers. “Energy and telecommunication players in Malaysia may be able to assist with deploying redundant routes and secondary supply to data centers at their request,” pointed out Wan Murdani.

Other digital-based concerns are properly addressed as well. In regards to personal data protection in Malaysia, the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) is the main governing law that manages personal data privacy and information security. On the connectivity side, fibre is available throughout Malaysia via various telco providers in the country. “International connectivity is available via many routes, including direct connections to major regional connectivity hubs. More capacity is being invested by the local telcos for the future, who have joined international consortiums to bring new submarine cables into Malaysia,” added Wan Murdani.

As is, MDEC’s measures are already bearing results. Recently, Bridge Data Centres, a subsidiary of Chindata Group, said that it will build a third data centre in Malaysia. Lim Dz Shing, President of Bridge, had said that this expansion is in the context of Malaysia witnessing an accelerated demand for quality and scalable data centre providers, due to digital transformation and cloud adoption across the country.

To further acknowledge and reinforce this rapid growth for the digital economy, recently, during the MyDIGITAL launch, YAB Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin revealed how the Malaysian Government provided conditional approvals to Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Telekom Malaysia to build and manage new hyper-scale data centres and cloud services.

Currently, around 3,000 companies are already present in MSC Malaysia. The country’s data centre market is expected to hit around $800 million by 2025, according to Arizton Intelligence.

 

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How Big Corps & SMEs are shaping Vietnam’s digital economy

Micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) constitute 96 per cent of Vietnam’s business activities.

Meanwhile, big corporations, including multinational enterprises (MNEs), have impacted the ecosystem with their high capacity in technologies, finance, as well as their overall knowledge.

Add to the mix – government – which is still leading the digital transformation, urges businesses to step up the game and push forward the current estimated $14 billion worth digital economy of Vietnam.

First movers are big corporations and MNEs

Geopolitical issues can be added to the digitalisation push. In Vietnam, the European Union–Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and the trade war between China and the U.S. are bringing new businesses coming to the country, said Tanguy Le Barber, founder of strategic consulting company Roadenn, at 2021 SEA Digital Week.

A positive effect is that when foreign companies come, they invest in local talent instead of using staff from their home countries.

Take South Korean multinational conglomerate Samsung as an example. In 2017, the company launched the Samsung Talent Program, which offered VND 8.5 billion (approximately $ 369,350) in the types of scholarships, specialised courses, and research and career opportunities for Vietnam’s information technology and electronics-telecommunications talent.

The company also has started constructing a new $220 million research and development (R&D) centre in Vietnam since 2020, increasing its research workforce in the country from 2,200 to 3,000 by 2022.

That is because it is an economic model at work, stated Bryan Carroll, CEO of TNEX, a Vietnam-based digital bank. “It’s positive, not just on GDP. This is an opportunity.”

Over the past years, capital has been pouring into the Vietnamese market. In January, foreign direct investment (FDI) capital in Vietnam reached $1.51 billion, representing a rise of 4.1 per cent year-on-year, as per a report of the Foreign Investment Agency (FIA) under the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

“It is driving the push for the digital transformation of the country,” Barber said.

Data source: World Bank

According to the e-Conomy Southeast Asia 2020 report by Google, Temasek and Bain & Company, analysts estimate Vietnam’s digital economy to reach $43 billion by 2025. But for the country to become competitive and be a major player in the region, or even worldwide, the government and local companies should understand the need for radical changes, Barber underlined.

Some prominent local corporations are taking the lead and eager to optimise their activities to regional levels. FPT Group, for example, is working with multiple partners and vendors to find options to reduce energy consumption at data centres, which then minimises negative impacts on the local environment.

“We applied a lot of new technologies to make sure that how we can reduce the PUE [Power Usage Effectiveness] down as much as we can,” said Khoa Doan, executive vice president of FPT Smart Cloud.

The same story goes with Vinfast, the first local car brand in the country, which has deployed a recognised world-leading production plant in Vietnam with automation and robotic processes.

SMEs can play alongside big players

When Internet users in Vietnam account for nearly 70 per cent of the population and spend an average of 6 hours 30 minutes online every day, SMEs in Vietnam are still not ready for digital transformation and the digital economy.

Among all small and micro-enterprises, which account for 96 per cent of firms and 40 per cent of national income (GDP), more than 45 per cent has not engaged well with technology, informed Ralf Matthaes, founder and managing director at Infocus Mekong research.

“SMEs have barriers to join this digital revolution which is happening in Vietnam,” said Carroll.Vietnam digital adoptionIn the case of cloud adoption, insiders found that most business people in Vietnam thought that adopting cloud computing means giving their data to cloud providers. The recent MaturityScape benchmark study of IDC ASEAN in 2018 also noted that 85 per cent of enterprises polled in eleven countries in Asia-Pacific, excluding Japan, are only rated at two out of five in IDC’s cloud maturity model.

“But now they are starting to understand that moving to cloud should be thought from a long-term investment point of view, which is the best solution for smaller business in Vietnam,” said Robert Tran, cybersecurity and technology risk leader at consulting company Ernst & Young Vietnam.

As the situation is changing exponentially due to the acceleration caused by the pandemic, Anthony Lim, regional principal consultant at Fortinet, said that cloud computing services availability could increase the efficiency and innovation capacity of small businesses in Vietnam.

“It will actually help a lot of small businesses get up to speed and play alongside big players,” Lim commented.

Digital Economy in Vietnam: From Government to Private Sector

As businesses are still approaching cloud computing cautiously, experts reach a consensus on the government’s role in the digital transformation stories, not only in Vietnam, but also in previous cases in the U.S., the Middle East, or Singapore.

“I don’t see so far the possibility of the transformation emanating from companies to the government. It has to be the other way around,” said Barber in a discussion at Digital Week.

In Vietnam, the Prime Minister has approved the national digital transformation programme to 2025 and orientation to 2030, which states various objectives, including developing a digital government, boosting the Vietnamese digital economy to account for 20% of GDP, and narrowing the digital gap by universalising fibre-optic Internet services, 5G mobile network, and electronic payment.

But while Singapore and Hong Kong are small city and states, most key digital infrastructure in the region, say data centres, are implemented there. Vietnam is still trailing behind with only 3.5 per cent of the total number of data centres in ASEAN, according to Frost & Sullivan’s “ASEAN and Taiwan Data Center Services Market, Forecast to 2025.”

“The reason is that their regulations [Singapore and Hongkong] are very clear and protect customer and data privacy,” said Tran. “Vietnam technically becoming a powerhouse is not a problem, but regulation could be a problem.”

Last year, in an effort to improve digital safety, the Ministry of Information and Communications of Vietnam provided guidelines on cloud computing for e-government, which Doan commented, could act as a critical reference for businesses in Vietnam in terms of understanding the requirements and standards of technical and information securities.

“How can they [organisations and companies] react and implement this direction from the government?,” said Carroll. “That comes down to the fact that digitalisation is more about people than technology.”

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Survey: Widening gap between threat intelligence capabilities and needs

While the concerns with cybersecurity have risen, threat intelligence capacities are still lagging behind, said a new report by Cybersixgill, a specialist in threat intelligence enablement, and Dark Reading, a cybersecurity news site.

The 2021 State of Threat Intelligence report found that deep and dark threat intelligence is gaining traction across the cybersecurity industry. Dark webs refer to the sites that are not accessible via public search and are often the criminal underground.

However, many from the industry are struggling with the lack of expertise regarding deep and dark web intelligence collection, the importance of intel freshness, the speed and rate of collections, as well as their overall impact on an organization’s cybersecurity programs and posture.

> Find out how HKBN is helping SMEs to combat cyberattacks

77 per cent of organisations have at least one dedicated threat intelligence analyst, and 54 per cent have more than five. Yet an overwhelming 48 per cent of organisations struggle with inaccurate data and 46 per cent with stale data.

More than half state they do not have access to closed and invite-only forums, and nearly a third said they do not receive threat intelligence from deep and dark web sources.

“The deep and dark web is the world’s third-largest economy after the US and China. In other words, if you’re a cybercriminal – you have to be there,” Meira Primes, CMO of Cybersixgill.

“Organizations are drowning in irrelevant data, false positives, and lack of ‘big picture’ understanding. Those who fail to adapt and act accordingly will not be able to advance their cyber defense strategy and protect their organization against cyber threats,” she adds.

The report surveyed 106 cybersecurity executives at large enterprises, covering various aspects of threat intelligence from common use-cases to operational challenges.

Additional findings include:

1. Multiple Breaches: 25 per cent of organisations have experienced six or more security breaches in the previous 12 months.

2. Long time to action: 35 per cent of organisations say it takes 12 hours or more to supplement new threat intelligence data with enough research to begin escalating and remediating incidents.

3. Drowning in data: 35 per cent of organisations use seven or more threat feeds at a time.

4. Time wasted on false Positives: 95 per cent of organisations waste anywhere from one hour to five days per week per analyst on false positives.

5. Obsolete data impacting almost half of the organisations: 48 per cent of organizations struggle with inaccurate threat intelligence data and 46 per cent with stale data.

6. Lack of context: 40 per cent of organisations cite lack of context as the biggest source of dissatisfaction in threat intelligence.

The report suggests that cybersecurity professionals need to shift the way they approach threat intelligence.

One way of doing so is to implement a modern methodology that includes automating the collection, analysis, research, and response in order to minimize the amount of manual labor it takes to truly operationalise threat intelligence.

In addition, the report recommends a set of baseline criteria for enterprises evaluating threat intelligence feeds. Intelligence, the research shows, should be continuous, iterative, contextual, and operationally integrative.

U.K. cyber firm Bluedog to launch second security ops centre in the Philippines

The second security operations centre (SOC) will operate in Makati, a city in Manila, as Bluedog sees a growing demand for cybersecurity among local businesses who are suffering from phishing emails, attempted log-ins, and office network breach attempts, especially during lockdowns.

“We are aware that there are numerous small banks struggling with compliance, and hundreds of outsourcing firms which need to reassure overseas customers that they can meet international standards,” said Paul Lomax, co-founder of Bluedog Security Monitoring.

Twelve months to the opening of the new SOP, Bluedog will hire at least 20 new staff while maintaining its 30 workers at its first operations centres also based in Makati. Bluedog Training Academy will join the process to provide more local graduates with cyber skills to support the new operations.

Lomax added that the new SOP would make it gain steam in the race with the U.S. and Europe’s rivals as it makes security solutions accessible and affordable for more firms.

The distribution agreement with the local cybersecurity provider I.T. Security Distribution (ITSDI) will also help the company expand its customer base in the Philippines, while securing its current network in the U.K., Middle East, India, Singapore and Australia markets.

“We are pleased to offer Bluedog’s services in the Philippines and believe they could solve some key challenges for companies here,” said Luichi Robles, president of ITSDI. “Security concerns are greatest in the banking and financial services sector and Bluedog’s managed detection and response service offers an affordable solution.”

As working from home poses challenges for companies to monitor employees’ devices and allows more penetrators to take advantage of users’ negligence in downloading pirated software, Bluedog has been a pandemic winner. Its Microsoft 365 monitoring service has registered a marked number of new customers during lockdowns.

“The number of accounts we monitor is growing by around 20% per month,” Lomax stated. “The [Microsoft 365 monitoring] service—which can be activated remotely—effectively brings remote devices into the company’s network, allowing companies to detect risks ranging from suspicious account log-ins to phishing emails arriving in an employee’s inbox.”

Apart from Microsoft 365, managed detection and response (a 24-hour cybersecurity monitoring service), Azure monitoring, virtual CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) service, Microsoft 365 endpoint detection and response, and vulnerability assessment and penetration testing (VAPT) are also Bluedog’s offerings for firms.

Indian government empanels IBM as Cloud Service Provider

IBM has launched its ‘Cloud Satellite’ initiative in India to enable the next frontier of distributed cloud computing.

The tech giant has also been empanelled by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeiTY), as a cloud service provider. What this means is Indian public sector companies can now access the industry’s most secure and open cloud platform to drive transformation/innovation and growth.

In a note Sandip Patel, Managing Director, IBM India said: that this is a key milestone for IBM Cloud – one that reiterates its commitment to supporting the Government’s vision of Digital India. “The empanelment will enable the Indian public sector – government agencies at the central and state level, and public sector undertakings across sectors, to tap into the industry’s most secure and open cloud platform to drive innovation and growth.”

The development also is significant for IBM, considering the fact that many organisations seek some sort of reassurance that a private service provider has the Indian government’s backing.

He further added that after the uncertainty of the past year, CEO’s focus on organisational agility – the capability of an organization to respond quickly and pivot without losing momentum – emerged as a top priority.

“Technology not only enables this agility — it is central to enabling a hybrid workforce, driving operational efficiency, ensuring resilience, and enhancing customer engagement. On this, the hybrid cloud delivers. In fact, clients find that choosing a hybrid cloud approach is 2.5 times more valuable than relying on the public cloud alone.”

The benefits are across many areas – from business value acceleration and infrastructure cost efficiency to developer productivity and cost of regulatory, compliance and security. “In fact, only a hybrid cloud architecture can provide a consistent, standards-based approach to development, security, and operations that’s required for digital innovation that has become the most powerful way to drive transformation and change in today’s time,” he said.

Earlier, IBM had announced a significant investment in its hybrid cloud strategy, with the launch of IBM Cloud Satellite – a unifying layer of cloud services, available across all locations, to offer businesses high levels of control over critical data delivered via IBM Cloud, regardless of where their data resides. Clients can now deploy cloud services securely –and in any environment –in any public cloud, private cloud, on-premises, or at the edge.

For example, IBM Cloud Satellite will include support for Satellite locations on AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. IBM Cloud Satellite extends secure and open IBM Cloud services to any environment where data is being collected, processed, or shared thereby giving clients across multiple industries–especially those in highly regulated industries such as telco, financial services, healthcare, and government the flexibility and efficiency of cloud in a secure manner.

 

IBM India, over the years

 

Over the years, IBM has lent its weight for many of the country’s tech-powered transformation journeys. From IBM infrastructure being underlying architecture for eleven out of the thirteen public sector banks to our collaboration with Ministry of Education (MoE) and Niti Aayog on samShiksha; from Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture supporting farmers in Karnataka; to STEM programs across 10 states in India and AI curriculum in 160 CBSE schools accessed by over 12,000 students – IBM has been at the forefront of driving innovation and impact – made in India, for India and the World.

“The launch of IBM Cloud Satellite and IBM Cloud accreditation enables us to further strengthen our collaboration with organizations and the government/public sector to bring the power of exponential technologies like Cloud & AI to further the next big technology evolution in India,” said Patel.

 

Cybersecurity threats in Malaysia spiked amid remote working in 2020: Kaspersky 

With 67 per cent of the Malaysian companies required their staff to work from home (WFH) during national lockdowns, a global threat intelligence exchange network Kaspersky reveals that it has detected a 33% rise in web threats in the country last year.

Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) is a complex distributed infrastructure that integrates cloud-based technologies into personal and corporate Kaspersky solutions, with cybersecurity-related data streams from millions of voluntary participants worldwide.

“We have seen several incidents of scams and social engineering tactics last year, which is aimed at tricking the human mind to steal money or information. Most of which used buzzwords related to COVID-19. Avoiding such requires a lot of calmness and vigilance, which is a tough one to have amidst the chaos that is the pandemic,” said Yeo Siang Tiong, General Manager for Southeast Asia at Kaspersky.

Amongst the noticeable factors behind the uptrend of web threats in Southeast Asia were the web-skimmers, which is a form of internet or carding fraud where a payment page on a website is compromised has grown by about 20%. The majority of the web threats were targeted at home users in Malaysia, 17.7%, whereas business users at 7.1%.

The top five web threats in Southeast Asia in 2020 were: malware in web traffic is found during browsing scenarios – when user visits infected site or online advertisement performs unfair action; unintentional downloads of certain programs or files from the internet; downloading malicious attachments from online e-mail services; browser extensions activity; downloads of malicious components or communications performed by other malware.

For companies observing remote work, Kaspersky specialists have the following tips to help employers and businesses stay on top of any potential IT security issues and remain productive while the staff is working from home:

  1. Ensure your employees have all they need to securely work from home and know who to contact if they face an IT or security issue;
  2. Schedule basic security awareness training for your employees. This can be done online and cover essential practices, such as account and password management, email security, endpoint security, and web browsing.
  3. Take key data protection measures including switching on password protection, encrypting work devices, and ensuring data are backed up.
  4. Ensure devices, software, applications, and services are kept updated with the latest patches.
  5. Install proven protection software, on all endpoints, including mobile devices, and switch on firewalls.
  6. Ensure you have access to the latest threat intelligence to bolster your protection solution.
  7. Double-check the protection available on mobile devices. It should enable anti-theft capabilities such as remote device location, locking and wiping of data, screen locking, passwords, and biometric security features like Face ID or Touch ID, as well as enable application controls to ensure only approved employees use applications.
  8. In addition to physical endpoints, it is important to protect cloud workloads and virtual desktop infrastructure.

“It is high time for enterprises, of all shapes and sizes, to understand that online threats even against individuals should now be considered risks against companies. We need to remember, cybercriminals, never sleep. Hence our security solutions should be automated, intelligence-based, and proactive,” added Yeo.

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