Malaysia’s ICT industry is booming, but the nation is as vulnerable as any on the online frontier of global war.
The government’s foreign policy may have put the nation in the crosshairs of online attackers, so how can Malaysians protect themselves?
In the run-up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there was much talk of global cyber warfare. Almost five months into the war in Ukraine, let’s look at:
- How the war played out in the online arena.
- How Malaysia Fits Into Global Cyberwar.
- What you can do to protect your personal and business devices in uncertain times.
How has global cyberwar changed in 2022?
For years there have been reports of hacks and counter-hacks between the world’s superpowers and their nemesis. Many will remember it Hacked by Sony for example, by North Korean actors in retaliation for a film about their leader.
In late 2021 and early 2022, Western government agencies saw a spike in hacks. Some notable examples contain:
- An FBI contractor’s communications system was hacked in November 2021.
- Australian energy companies were hacked by a Russian group in December 2021.
- Canada’s foreign ministry was attacked on the same day it spoke out against Russian aggression.
There seems to have been a clear connection between Russia’s real invasion plans and online activity against its critics.
However, there are predictions of an influx of attacks against the global West have not yet come about. Attacks from Russia have focused on Ukraine, its government and infrastructure, leaving allies unharmed – so far.
In the wide world that Head of FBI and MI5 in the UK have warned of the cyber threat posed by China. The economic war is very real, they warned, as Chinese actors seek trade secrets to gain a commercial advantage.
Where does Malaysia, with its somber stance on the Ukrainian war and its own internal cyberattackers, fit into this global picture?
How is Malaysia affected by the global cyberwar?
The Malaysian government does not have a comprehensive policy on the invasion of Ukraine. Although she voted at the UN to condemn the war, she has also discussed the possibility of selling semiconductors to Putin’s regime.
This could put the government in the firing line of hacktivist groups like Anonymous, which unilaterally declared war on Russia. Malaysians seem to have already fallen Victims of the online information warwith online discourse in the country tending to Russia as an “anti-imperialist” force, even when it comes to empire-building in Ukraine.
In economic terms, Malaysian citizens are at the forefront. In the three years to 2021 Malaysians lost RM1.6 billion to online fraud. The two biggest attack vectors were fraudulent online sales and fake loans – people lose cash online and quickly.
As a matter of fact, 1.14 percent of all cybercrime in the world attacks Malaysian people and businesses, but it only has 0.42 percent the world population. Around two-thirds of Malaysian companies believe they will experience a data breach sometime in 2022, showing that a real threat exists and little confidence in addressing it.
On the other side of the coin, Malaysia is linked to a hacktivist group called DragonForce. The collective came to the fore Orchestrating DDoS attacks against Israel amid talks of resuming diplomatic ties with Southeast Asian countries in July 2021.
It’s been making the news more recently Attacks on Indian websites in retaliation for the ruling BJP party’s Hindu nationalist agenda.
The organization’s agenda has been to attack countries perceived as Islamophobic. Whether they will turn their attention closer to home and launch attacks on Malaysian units remains to be seen.
How can Malaysians protect themselves in the age of global cyber warfare?
It seems like a lot to worry about, but the average Malaysian citizen or small business owner can still protect themselves.
Here are our top tips to keep attackers off your devices:
- Use a VPN for PCs and phones on all your devices – keeping your location and browsing activity private.
- Keep your devices and apps up to date – Software companies regularly release patches when a security vulnerability is found.
- Stay skeptical on the internet – the age old adage applies; If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Use antivirus and antimalware tools – they are designed to stop a threat when all other steps fail.
Taking care of cybersecurity as a Malaysian
The global perspective on cyberwar can seem daunting. Global players are trying to harm systems and economies, and that can seem pretty abstract.
As an individual, you can still be aware of the issues and do your part to keep it safe. When you protect your devices, you know your data won’t be compromised and you’re less vulnerable to hackers.
Pokdepinion: Cybersecurity is no joke and we are approaching times where due diligence will become more important than ever. Take care.