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How Southeast Asian Telcos Are Bolstering Their Cyber Defenses Amid the Push for Digitalization

In 2023, cybersecurity laws will be high on the agenda for many governments across the world as they continue to deal with growing pressure to protect their people and infrastructure from cyberattacks, according to mobile industry group GSMA.

It added that cybercriminals have also started practicing innovative approaches to target individuals and employees through social engineering. Cybersecurity has therefore become part of more extensive security and privacy strategies.

In its report, the GSMA said that there has been a rise in real and perceived threats to national security and public safety, especially as more people now heavily rely on the internet to communicate and transact businesses, among other activities online. And these have made them more at risk of ransomware and other cybersecurity issues.

Citing Interpol, the GSMA reported that ransomware, phishing, online scams and hacking are the latest cybercrime activities that are determined to be the most threatening to many people and organizations.

In Asia Pacific, more technologically advanced countries like Singapore and Japan have already extended their help to less-developed neighboring countries. The regions are trying to counter these threats with a stronger commitment to mutual defense, the adoption of cyber norms and regional-level capacity building.    

As more countries in Southeast Asia are now moving forward with their digital transformation strategies, securing their cyber defenses is also deemed a critical part of their digitalization goals. What follows are some of the latest measures that both the public and private sectors have been enforcing to ensure their citizens and infrastructure are protected.


Amid Singapore’s push for a more advanced digital economy, Singtel has warned that in 2023, “the gravest cyber threats to companies may come in the form of lurking, almost invisible attacks produced by hidden, organized networks of expert hackers.” 

Singapore’s major telecom operator said that the world is now in the age of Advanced Persistent Threat (APT), which involves: “stealthy and continuous cyberattacks orchestrated across months or years; and unleashed on large businesses, government institutions or high-value individuals.”

Singtel said that those being targeted by these attackers are VIPs, multinational companies or nations for data theft, economic gains or political advantage.

To protect against these potential dangers, the company has developed its program, Singtel Threat Management, which features end-to-end security services that make use of 10 federated security operations centers globally and the talents of over 2,000 global cybersecurity professionals to ensure round-the-clock response readiness.

The Singapore government also continues to strengthen its cybersecurity workforce, according to its Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA). In a statement, it emphasized the importance of strong cyber leaders, saying it was “important to lead and groom the next generation of cyber talent so that they can perform cybersecurity roles at various levels in organizations.”

It added that robust local cybersecurity leadership is also key to supporting Singapore’s ambition as an APAC cybersecurity hub.


The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) placed the Philippines 61st out of 194 countries in its latest Global Security Index. In a statement, Microsoft Philippines’ National Technology and Security Officer, Dale Jose, said: “It is more crucial than ever to develop a better cyber defense posture in the country as it is fundamental to establishing stronger grounds for digitalization. Now, we put the MDDR into the Philippine context and discuss action points the government must prioritize in order to prepare for, respond to and recover from cyberattacks and security breaches.”

As the government moves ahead with its plans for digital transformation, it is also looking towards updating the National Cybersecurity Plan. Among its technology partners, Microsoft is planning to build a safer cyberspace for the Philippines. The massive number of signals it receives and analyzes allows Microsoft to assess the threat landscape and provide data-driven insights to support the development of Philippine policies on cybersecurity.

Microsoft has already started working with its customers, partners and communities in the country to strengthen their collaboration, share knowledge and toughen security for organizations nationwide. 

Telecom giant PLDT Group, meanwhile, said it has continued beefing up its cybersecurity. As of the end of 2022, PLDT and Smart’s Cyber Security Operations Group had prevented more than 182 million cyberattacks and breach attempts. The Cyber Security Operations Group has also accumulated more than 123 million indicators of compromise in its threat intelligence database that it uses for cybersecurity correlation.

Its rival, Globe Telecom, announced that it had blocked a record high 2.72 billion scam and spam messages in 2022, more than double the 2021 total of 1.15 billion. The move, it said, is a reflection of the impact of its stepped-up campaign against malicious SMS.

As a result of its intensified crackdown against fraudsters, Globe also blocked 83.4 million bank-related spam messages last year. Globe has partnered with all major commercial banks and online retailers in the country to ensure quick and efficient information exchange for a more efficient, coordinated response to spam and fraud SMS.

It has also teamed up with global firm, Palo Alto Networks, to improve enterprise cybersecurity.

Globe boasts its Business Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR) Solutions, powered by Palo Alto Networks Cortex XDR, the industry's first extended detection and response platform, to enable security teams to block modern attacks. By combining rich data and analytics, EDR can identify tactics and techniques deployed by attackers, hunt for malicious activities and provide the visibility needed to investigate and respond to incidents.

Globe allows enterprises to access integrated Next-Generation Firewalls from Palo Alto Networks as organizations shift to a cloud-delivered network security model. The cybersecurity firm’s natively-integrated Prisma Access and Prisma Software-Defined Wide Area Network solutions provide security and uninterrupted connectivity.


According to a report by the Bangkok Post, Thailand saw 44,000 cyberattacks in the first half of 2022, resulting in a loss of 3 billion baht.

International Data Corporation said that as Thailand becomes more digitally advanced, cyber risks also increase. It added that businesses are more mindful of cyber threats, as reflected in their software spending. In fact, the market saw security software spending go up by 22.5% year-on-year in the first half of 2022. IDC expects to see continuous investment in security in Thailand as attack patterns and cyber threats are always changing and becoming more complex.

In his article for the World Economic Forum, Sigve Brekke, chief executive officer, Telenor Group, the majority owner of dtac, said, “It isn't digitalisation that's making us more vulnerable to cyberattacks;      rather, it’s the interconnection between everything and everyone across borders.”

He stressed that by relying on partnerships, particularly its collaboration with Cisco, they have enabled young people in Thailand to have a good knowledge of the solutions for cybersecurity and online safety challenges.

AIS also expanded its cyber threat awareness project, Aunjai Cyber, which is the first digital skill enhancement learning program in Thailand. This year, the project will cover 245 educational areas, including 29,000 schools across the country.

Among its objectives is to provide youth with proper online communication skills and behavior in order to protect them from cyber threats and help create a community of a modern digital world for children, youth and Thai people.


Malaysia’s Cyber Security Commission has vowed to strengthen the country’s cybersecurity. The Prime Minister has announced that the Minister of Communications and Digital (KKD), Fahmi Fadzil, represented Malaysia in Singapore to sign a memorandum of understanding to promote cooperation in the aspects of data, cyber security and the digital economy.

Following this meeting in Singapore, the government announced its plans to form the Malaysian Cyber Security Commission as part of efforts to enhance the country’s cybersecurity framework.

This comes ahead of the 5G network implementation in the country, which, as of now, is still under review. The assessment of the 5G network implementation is expected to be completed by the end of March.

TM One, the business-to-business arm of Telekom Malaysia, reminds enterprises of the risks that come with their digitalization efforts, noting that a heavy reliance on technological tools and services presents a higher vulnerability to cyberattacks.

Shazurawati Abd Karim, Executive Vice President at TM One, quoted a 2022 Kroll Cyber Risk and CFOs study of CFOs in Asia Pacific where 84 percent of the respondents confirmed they had more than three cybersecurity incidents in the last 18 months.

TM One cited a ranking by VPN service company SurfShark, placing Malaysia at the 11th spot as a highly invasive and digitally threatened country. This indicates that businesses with weak cyber defenses may experience an influx of cybercrimes in the future, resulting in potential data and financial loss.

Shazurawati said that to achieve total digital transformation, businesses must ensure that pursuing and upgrading cybersecurity networks remains an uncompromising priority.

To address these needs for digitalization, TM One partnered with top global and Malaysian tech and smart service providers for the 5G Sphere Programme — an ecosystem of smart and digital solution enablers for enterprise innovation and Next-Generation transformation. 


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