Just as individuals recognize the importance of setting prevention methods in place for unforeseen circumstances, business leaders should adopt a similarly proactive approach in their attitude toward cybersecurity. The Lion City is recognized as the financial hub of the Asia Pacific and has always been lauded for its resilience despite its modest size, but now it faces a paradox with a stark contrast in approaches among business leaders here.

Our recent research reveals that 100 percent of CISOs (Chief Information Security Officers) in Singapore receive increased support from the board only after a cyber attack. A reactive mindset towards the growing sophisticated cyber threats we face today would only hinder the nation’s ongoing success. It is crucial for business leaders to shift their approach, recognizing the necessity of preemptive cybersecurity measures to safeguard against potential threats and ensure sustained prosperity.

Navigating hurdles in digital trust

2023 commenced with businesses contending with substantial digital trust concerns, only to witness their escalation, due to the surge in cyber attacks directly linked to the proliferation of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This was not entirely unforeseen, given the continuous evolution of cyber threats in sophistication. However, it demanded immediate intervention, particularly from governments themselves.

Singapore addressed this conundrum on the global stage, hosting major cybersecurity events such as GovWare, where trust emerged as the recurring theme among discussions involving over 12,000 global cybersecurity practitioners, policymakers, and organizational leaders.

Likewise, at the Singapore International Cyber Week Summit 2023, Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Teo Chee Hean, tackled the issue of dwindling digital trust and the strained dynamic between governments and the tech industry. While recognizing that challenges such as cybersecurity and online safety in the digital realm can be tackled through the active involvement and collaboration of Big Tech companies, establishing trust between these entities and governments remains a formidable obstacle.

The challenge here is two-fold. If governments remain distrustful of businesses in adopting a good cybersecurity and data security posture to protect against cyber threats, organizations risk missing out on the potential benefits of seamless collaboration. Similarly, if public trust in the digital domain is lost, users may be reluctant to carry out digital transactions, severely hindering progress and development in the digital sphere.

The roadmap to digital trust

In a commendable step towards fostering a secure cloud environment and building digital trust, Singapore recently released a cloud security guidebook.  Developed in close partnership with major cloud providers in Singapore, the guidebook provides organizations with standardized best practices and recommendations, serving as a valuable educational resource for enhancing cloud security practices. Additionally, separate targeted guides were specifically tailored for SMEs and large digitized organizations, catering to their unique cybersecurity needs.

While such guidance is undoubtedly beneficial, there is a need to shift from mere guidelines to enforceable mandates. This shift enables organizations to proactively adhere to rigorous standards, ultimately fostering a more resilient and secure industry, while instilling trust in their company among their users and customers. Although achieving compliance with mandates may entail complexities and financial considerations, the overarching benefit to the industry significantly outweighs these challenges.

Take last year’s Presidential Elections as an example. Singapore, for the first time, introduced digital IDs at polling stations, marking a significant milestone for the country’s roadmap towards becoming a smart nation. While there is a clear vision to digitalize our infrastructures, organizations have to play a proactive part in safely realizing this goal.

Recognizing the potential drawbacks of overly detailed and inflexible rules, an adaptive approach should be prioritized which focuses on high-level requirements, mandating key principles such as adherence to industry best practices and the implementation of robust security solutions. Adopting a living security ecosystem acknowledges companies face cyber threats on a daily basis, and drives them to utilize real-time monitoring and new solutions that are constantly adapted to address evolving and complex threats.

Notably, our latest research further unveiled unanimous agreement among all CISOs in Singapore that the deployment of an XDR (Extended Detection and Response) platform could have averted the significant cybersecurity incident they encountered. It is now imperative for organizations to contemplate the adoption of technology that consistently evolves, as this stands as a crucial measure in safeguarding against the current landscape of cyber threats and building digital trust.

Preparing for future threats

Despite the measures implemented, it is imperative to acknowledge that technology’s rapid evolution can outpace the development of mandates, particularly in the context of emerging technologies like Generative AI, which stands at the intersection of both promise and peril in the realm of cybersecurity.

Traditionally, scams were often identifiable based on language, spelling errors, and other telltale signs. However, with the integration of AI, cybercriminals are refining their strategies, enhancing the sophistication of scams to make them more convincing and realistic. This shift in tactics was evident in the recent surge of job scams in Singapore, with over 6,600 victims reported since January 2023.

To make matters worse, cybercriminals could soon have access to unrestricted generative AI that can write malicious codes, create deepfake videos, assist with social engineering schemes, and more. This will make it easier than ever for unskilled actors to execute sophisticated attacks at scale.

Organizations and individuals alike need to brace themselves for a new era of threats, which are becoming smarter, quicker, and more coordinated. To combat this, incorporating a comprehensive security solution that provides real-time monitoring and analysis across an organization’s entire digital ecosystem is pivotal. The journey forward is of collaboration, not silos. Governments can pave the way by enforcing overarching regulatory frameworks to help drive actions forward, but it is ultimately up to each business to take accountability and establish a relationship of trust.

Jonathan Tan is Managing Director, Asia at Trellix.

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