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Microsoft exec: APAC companies delay digitalization due to cybersecurity fears

Digitalization is estimated to add US$1.16 trillion to Asia-Pacific's GDP by 2021.

Economic loss across the region from cybersecurity incidents could hit US$1.75 trillion.

Artificial intelligence can detect and act on threats, using data insights.

Cybersecurity is in the spotlight following accusations of U.S. election meddling, and the allegations now surrounding Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.

Across Hong Kong and Asia-Pacific, more than half of organizations have either experienced a cybersecurity incident or failed to perform adequate forensics or data assessments to identify potential breaches, Eric Lam, director of Cybersecurity Solutions Group at Microsoft Corp. Asia tells S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The following is an edited conversation with Eric Lam.

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Eric Lam, Microsoft Cybersecurity director

Source: Microsoft

S&P Global Market Intelligence: Why is cybersecurity a concern in Asia-Pacific economies?

Eric Lam: It is estimated that digital transformation [the integration of digital technology into business practices] will add US$1.16 trillion to Asia-Pacific's GDP by 2021. However, due to the fear of cyberattacks and data breaches, close to 60% of organizations in the region have delayed the progress of their digital transformation projects. Potential economic loss across Asia-Pacific due to cybersecurity breaches could hit a staggering US$1.75 trillion.

What specific challenges do we face today?

According to a Frost & Sullivan study, organizations in Asia-Pacific said there are four types of breaches that have the highest impact, with the slowest recovery time: fraudulent wire transfer, data corruption, online brand impersonation and data exfiltration [where malware transfers data from a device without permission]. Organizations either think about cybersecurity only after they start on [their] project or do not consider it at all. [Of those that deployed cybersecurity software], less than one in four respondents with more than 50 cybersecurity solutions can recover from cyberattacks within an hour.

Is there a good way to counter cybersecurity issues and how effective is any solution?

Artificial intelligence is becoming a potent opponent against cyberattacks as it can detect and act on threat vectors [paths used by hackers] based on data insights. AI and machine learning can achieve a high rate of precision by analyzing various data sets with lots of dimensions. For organizations, the best system for detecting cyberthreats is when AI and human expertise team up. An AI-driven cybersecurity architecture, complemented by human expertise, can also be equipped with predictive abilities to allow organizations to fix or strengthen their security posture before issues surface.

Are there concerns with using AI?

We are seeing more organizations set out to design conversational interfaces, such as chat-bots and virtual assistants. One of the key approaches for organizations to foster greater trust in conversational AI is to maintain the highest standards of privacy and security. These virtual assistant services need to have proper authentication, separation of duty, input validation and mitigation for denial-of-service attacks. In a world where both technology and security threats are diverse and ever-changing, it is clear we will need to work together to tackle cybersecurity threats.