The digital age brings some inherent security risks, like cyberattacks and hacking, that can have a significant impact on governments. The governments of Singapore, Philippines, South Korea, India, and Japan are some of the recent major victims — and the list is growing by the day.

Why are Asia Pacific (AP) governments a soft target for cyberattacks?

  • Aging, vulnerable infrastructure. Many servers that host critical government websites still run outmoded operating systems and are plagued by problems such as obsolete software and insecure coding, making them vulnerable to cyberattacks. For instance, only a handful of government computers in India use the latest version of Java; more than three-quarters of them are running unsupported versions of the software, which has been a common target for malware since 2010.
  • Low adoption of advanced security technology coupled with lack of security expertise. Governments still rely on conventional security controls like antivirus, antimalware, and firewalls that are powerless against sophisticated attacks. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that governments lack highly skilled personnel to combat cyberattacks effectively.

Governments in AP must adopt a more holistic approach to security to protect their ICT infrastructure from cyberattacks. Some immediate action items:

  • Harden the ICT infrastructure. Hardening improves the ability to defend against sophisticated, agile cyberthreats. For instance, as part of its power grid failure drill, the US government is preparing to close the IT infrastructure vulnerabilities in the country’s power grid to ensure protection from cyberattacks. Governments need to harden their ICT infrastructure on the hardware and application levels.
  • Establish a strong front-line defense against today’s immediate threats. AP governments must strengthen their network perimeter by deploying advanced threat detection and protection technologies at the Internet gateway. They must deploy technologies like unified threat management, secure gateways, VPNs, NAC, distributed denial of service protection, and other signature and anomaly-based tools to keep their network and websites up during the initial phases of an attack.
  • Hire, train, and retain certified security and IT personnel. Attacks are becoming more sophisticated. In order to analyze and respond to attacks, AP governments need to employ highly skilled security personnel with specific expertise and certifications like CISSP, CISA, CEH, GIAC, and CompTIA Security+.

These action items do not constitute a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy for AP governments, but they are important stepping stones. The environment is only going to increase in complexity, and the risk to government infrastructure will rise as attackers develop more threat capabilities. AP governments should learn from recent cyberattacks and prepare for the future by immediately starting to close the holes in their IT infrastructure and building a strong defensive network perimeter.