January 24, 2018, 9:34 am
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PRINTED CIRCUIT: Filipinos faster, safer, smarter on cybersecurity

2017 has proved to be significant in solidifying Philippine cybersecurity measures. The government made big strides in legislation and fundamental frameworks crucial in securing a well-protected national cyber network. But with great success also comes the challenges of beginning. 2017 has also been one of the more dangerous years in Philippine cybersecurity history, with the country being on the receiving end of attacks from both international and local hackers, which in turn is adding pressure to legislators to push for more ways to protect the citizens.

 In our highly competitive and dynamic country, mobile and smart devices are shaping the next frontier of business opportunities and growth. In the frontlines of this digital surge are apps that are transforming business models, operations and engagements – with speed, intelligence and security key to driving an organization’s success.  

Evolutions on basic engagements and transactions are expected as apps now become the new normal. The looming shift will be proactively driven by Filipino millennials, who now make up 31 percent of the country’s population or some 21.62 million . Filipino millennials will not settle for anything less—real-time, intuitive and secure “app-eriences” (experiences while using a mobile app_ are what they are after. It is now high time for organizations and brands to look into evolving their offerings, approaches and strategies to elevate the end-user app-erience. 

THE EVOLVING APP-ERIENCE. Research has shown that 80 percent of smartphone users from the Philippines have downloaded an application during this year’s first half, the highest in Southeast Asia. 

Filipinos have the ability to display immediate gratification, especially in their use of apps. The evolving app-erience has conditioned users to expect immediate results and answers.

Alongside this digital revolutionizing of apps is a new set of business challenges as enterprises continue to rely on an ever-increasing volume of applications through a complex web of infrastructures to be able to meet customer expectations. This, however, also opens up a new avenue for malicious actors to mount attacks using new vectors.

In 2018, businesses have to continuously cope with this trend in order to operate and engage with their customers. It is expected that the smartest companies will soon operate in an app-centric way and build services with the balance of speed and security at the heart of their customer’s experience. Filipino users expect businesses to be able to answer why they want to move apps, who needs access, what they want to do with them, and how are they are going to deliver (and secure) them. 

PROACTIVE APPROACH TO SECURITY. The rate with which apps are growing is now at an exponential phase, breaking thin lines between personal and professional, mobile and desktop, the data center and cloud. A small mistake can be extremely costly. Just recently, a simple coding error resulted in 180 million smartphone owners being at risk of having their private data stolen .

Increasingly today, the cybersecurity challenge is unrelenting. In fact, the region faces strong cyber concerns surrounding the likelihood and impact of technological threats, with cyberattacks ranked among the top five risks of doing business in the region . Organizations prevent any decrease in visibility, context and control, and combat any increase in surface area for cybercriminals to mount attacks. In the Philippines, the government has buffed up its cybersecurity efforts with stricter implementations that address the risks of cyber-attacks. This is evident in the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s move to partner with cybersecurity firms to combat the escalating number of cyber-attacks against businesses both in the public and private sectors.

In an aim to institutionalize globally recognized standards in cybersecurity, the recent and strict implementation of the Data Privacy Act of 2012 and the National Cybersecurity Plan 2022 are all geared towards giving premium value to pre-emptive measures for government agencies and the private sector as well. This sense of urgency from the government is a testament to its efforts to prepare against technology’s disruptive nature in the form cybercrimes, hackers, and malware, among others.

Last year showed how low cyber awareness and security investments have made Philippine businesses more susceptible to cyber-attacks. Businesses must now shift to a proactive approach of addressing the areas of greatest vulnerability—the apps and users—to ensure that they are a step ahead of cyber criminals. The approach of prediction, detection and response is more applicable than just defending the perimeter of the network. 

EDUCATING EMPLOYEES ON CYBERSECURITY. As Asia Pacific continues on its path of app-volution, employees need to be educated on their role in the organization’s cybersecurity strategy and the importance of data protection and malicious content. According to a worldwide survey by Information Security Forum (ISF) members, the vast majority of network openings that allow cyber attackers in are actually accidentally created by employees—those with no intentions of harming their employer. Business e-mail compromise scams are growing rapidly and have resulted in a cumulative loss of $3.1 billion since January 2015, and have been recently growing at a rapid rate in the Philippines. 

Office activities such as working on confidential documents on a secured network or checking the validity of an email from someone outside the organization need to be done with caution. Conducting awareness forums on cybersecurity can go a long way in creating a security-first culture and ultimately, protecting the organization from financial and reputational losses.

Governments in the region are increasingly recognizing the importance of having guidelines around a safe cybersecurity system in the fight against cyber risks. In fact, governments across the region are piling new compliance laws onto existing ones— from the Philippines’ Data Privacy Act of 2012 to the National Cybersecurity Plan 2022. 

INVESTING IN SECURITY SKILLS SET. According to our State of Application Delivery (SOAD) 2017 report , more than three-quarters (77 percent) of Asia Pacific respondents felt that their organization’s security posture was negatively impacted by a shortage of skilled and/or qualified app developers.

The Philippines is currently experiencing a security skills gap: Only 84 Filipinos currently hold the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) designation, with 40 of them working overseas. There will be a shortfall of 1.5 million cybersecurity professionals by 2020, according to a study by Frost & Sullivan conducted on behalf of the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC).  

In order for companies in Asia to continue innovating and evolving to stay relevant and engaged in this competitive landscape, the security skills of workers must be nurtured. This is a lasting investment. 

As 2018 unfolds, there is no stopping Philippines’ app-vancement. Apps are the new gateway to identities and data, and the responsibility of making the most out of this app-erience is within our fingertips. In 2018, Filipinos need to be part of building the right culture in organizations—to go faster, safer and smarter.
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