There has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of people in the Asia-Pacific that are accessing the internet for the first time. According to a recent report, in Southeast Asia alone there are 330M internet users, 70M of whom have connected since 2015. However, for digitalization to reach its fullest potential, users must first trust the technology they use.
In Microsoft’s most recent Security Intelligence Report (SIR) many emerging economies in Asia are identified as among the world’s most vulnerable to malware and similar cyber threats. Bangladesh and Pakistan are the most at-risk, followed by Cambodia and Indonesia with Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam all close behind. These countries are striving to develop their economies and create new jobs through digital transformation. However, widespread cyber vulnerability puts businesses and individual citizens alike at risk. There are also genuine concerns for regional economies with stronger security records including Australia, Japan, Singapore and others as they invest and build partnerships with their less secure neighbors.
While robust security postures and investments in firewalls and anti-virus software are critically important, it is complacency or lack of knowledge of risks at the individual level that causes the majority of security breaches. By failing to practice basic digital hygiene because of lack of know-how or carelessness, users are vulnerable to phishing – when cybercriminals pose as reputable companies to gain access to usernames, passwords, and credit card information, and the spreading of malware (short for malicious software) and viruses. So how can you remain safe?
PIRATED SOFTWARE – DON’T DO IT
According to a recent study from the National University of Singapore, the Asia-Pacific region “has the highest software piracy rate in the world, with a value of $26 billion (US$19 billion) in 2016 and three in five personal computers found to be using non-genuine software”. About one in three of the downloaded pirated software comes bundled with malware and close to one in four of the malicious programs deactivated the computer’s anti-malware software. Ensuring that software used is genuine can help to keep users safe.
AVOID PUBLIC WIFI SPOTS
Using public Wi-Fi isn’t unlike having a conversation in a public place: Others can overhear you. If you don’t take precautions, information your devices send over a public Wi-Fi network goes out in clear text — and anyone else on the network could easily take a look at what you’re doing with just a few simple software tools. Someone spying could easily pick up your passwords or other private information. Hackers can also use an unsecured Wi-Fi connection to distribute malware. Using a virtual private network (VPN) can help to improve your security when using public wifi spots.
REDUCE YOUR RISK OF CREDENTIAL COMPROMISE
Avoid simple passwords, use multi-factor authentication and apply alternative authentication methods (e.g., gesture or PIN). Poor authentication security is the leading cause of data breaches in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia, accounting for 76% of compromised records, according to a survey published by eGov Innovation.
PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY ONLINE
Users should conduct a review of the apps they use, and gain a better understanding of how your data is used and shared with third parties. Be aware of terms of service that are unclear or vaguely written. Use privacy settings to restrict unwanted access.
“Self-dox” or research what is openly available about you online. This can help you to make informed decisions about what you share online, and how. Keep in mind that doxing only shows what information is publicly available about users. It is only a fraction of what service and platform users can see.
The sophistication of hackers and cybercriminals and the constantly changing threats in the Asia-Pacific can seem overwhelming at times. However, by following the above recommendations and practicing basic digital security, users can increase their chances of remaining safe online.