During our time in Malaysia, OpenGov caught up with Dato’ Zainal Abidin Bin Kasim, Deputy Director (Operations), Royal Malaysian Police to discuss his drive to conserve Malaysian natural resources.
Dato’ Zainal Abidin Bin Kasim gave us a warm welcome and was eager to share his thoughts and experiences surrounding the topic of conservation.
Cross-Agency Conservation Initiative
When we walked into his office, Dato’ Zainal Abidin Bin Kasim had told us how he has been working to put a cross-agency leadership group together, to address conservation concerns. Poaching has become an increasingly great concern to Malaysian authorities, due to the amount
Forestry accounted for 62 percent of the land area across Malaysia in 2011, according to the World Bank. This land is vital to the country’s natural resources, offering habitat to the country’s biodiverse ecosystem.
In the state of Sabah, local conservationists are warning that the poaching issue could have adverse impacts on the region’s ecology and ecotourism sectors. From this, you may understand why the topic of poaching is of utmost importance to Dato’ Zainal Abidin Bin Kasim.
This is why he is working with the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Forestry Department, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, and other government agencies to come together and fight the growing poaching issue.
“We need to work as a united front because although poaching is not seen as ‘criminal activity’ to some, it is crucial to address,” stated Dato’ Zainal Abidin Bin Kasim, “Sometimes these poachers are coming from other countries and it can be easy for them to poach and escape criminal prosecution.”
Dato’ Zainal Abidin Bin Kasim proposes the use of defence forces to combat these criminal efforts. “If we do not start this initiative, it will only take even longer to address this imminent threat to our natural resources,” he said.
Along the Malaysia-Thailand border, the group TRAFFIC has created posters referencing the illegal hunting and trade offences under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 and International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008. These posters have been designed with the support of the Royal Malaysian Police who are united with public and non-profit organisations combating the poaching epidemic.
Recently, just this past week, Terengganu became the first state in Malaysia to issue a fatwa against wildlife poaching in the area. This signifies that illegal hunting practice is now ‘haram’, or forbidden.
Camera Traps, Data Sharing, and GIS come to the rescue!
Several technologies have been used in the past year to decrease the level of poaching in Malaysia. These technologies include camera trapping, data sharing, geospatial intelligence, and SMS reporting.
Camera traps have been put in place to capture these poachers. These camera traps are equipped with motion sensors acting as triggers. These were initially deployed through a wide-scale camera trapping project by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.
Now, they are helping catch poachers targeting prized wildlife and forest resources from Malaysia. Photos are sent to officers’ phones every few minutes when there is a poaching threat located.
Through the National Blue Ocean Strategy, the Department can also share information with other enforcement agencies such as the Armed Forces, Forestry Department, and State Park Cooperation.
The police can capitalise on Geospatial Technology to capture poachers. This would allow for satellite imagery data to be collected at a wide-scale. Dato’ Zainal Abidin Bin Kasim is supporting initiatives to develop GIS that will catch criminals at early stages.
Beyond these initiatives, civilians are encouraged to alert the authorities about any suspicious behavior via SMS. Then, through the Royal Malaysian Police advanced deployment system, the nearest police station will receive the message and attend to the situation.
Dato’ Zainal Abidin Bin Kasim praises technology for its ability to increase coverage of criminal activity and capacity of the police force in approaching conservation efforts. “If you must move forward in the world, you must integrate technology,” said Dato’ Zainal Abidin Bin Kasim, “Recruiting more manpower will not be enough, we will still need technology.”
Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP) and a Government Linked Company (GLC) focused on investment have formalised a collaborative agreement aimed at advancing research and development within the palm oil industry. This strategic partnership revolves around the pursuit of sustainable technological advancements in the sector, particularly through the optimised utilisation of biomass and other residual materials derived from palm oil plantations.
The signatories of this consequential agreement were UTP’s Vice Chancellor and the firm’s Chief Executive Officer. The signing ceremony garnered the presence of esteemed individuals, including the Ambassador of the State of Kuwait, the Undersecretary of West Asia at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the firm’s Chairman.
Central to this collaboration is a groundbreaking initiative titled “Optimisation of Biomass Waste-to-Wealth,” set to unfold at a palm oil mill in Tawau, Sabah. This multifaceted project holds ambitious goals, including enhancing plantation yield, reducing electricity costs, and curbing net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
At its core, the project aims to pioneer the development of a hybrid heavy-duty plantation vehicle that relies on biodiesel derived from palm oil waste in tandem with electric motors. The innovation is designed to significantly diminish diesel fuel consumption and, consequently, reduce CO2 emissions.
These objectives align harmoniously with Malaysia’s and PETRONAS’ shared vision of achieving net-zero CO2 emissions and UTP’s overarching commitment to securing sustainable global eminence. The endeavour spans two years and encompasses three sub-projects, each spearheaded by UTP’s researchers, targeting pivotal challenges within the palm oil sector.
The technologies that emerge from these sub-projects will serve as instrumental catalysts for advancing waste-to-wealth initiatives. They promise not only to redefine industry standards but also to foster a more eco-conscious approach to palm oil production.
In line with the broader technological aspirations, UTP’s dedication to international recognition is underscored by the signing of this agreement. As a leading academic institution, UTP is positioned to spearhead innovation and invention, ensuring the institution’s resilience in an ever-evolving landscape. UTP envisions itself as a preeminent provider of technological solutions to the industry, leveraging its expertise, experience, and state-of-the-art research facilities to meet the sector’s needs and uphold its standards.
Moreover, this collaborative venture underscores the profound significance of bridging academia and industry. It manifests a shared commitment to sustainability and a collective vision for a greener future. The focus extends beyond the technical aspects; it hinges on the dedicated individuals driving these innovations forward.
In adopting this collaborative approach, the firm signals a deliberate shift toward a more sustainable energy landscape. By transitioning from conventional diesel to biofuel derived from waste materials, the investment firm not only reduces its ecological footprint but also takes a substantial step towards mitigating climate change. The projected 74% reduction in CO2 emissions serves as a testament to the shared resolve to combat climate change and safeguard the environment for future generations.
This transformative journey transcends the realms of technology and research. It is fundamentally rooted in the people who passionately champion these innovations. The partnership exemplifies the profound impact that collaboration between academia and industry can yield. It encapsulates their joint vision for a future that prioritises environmental sustainability and responsible technological advancements.
The collaboration between Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP) and the investment firm holds immense promise in advancing sustainable technology within the palm oil industry. Through innovative projects like “Optimisation of Biomass Waste-to-Wealth,” the partners aim to reshape industry dynamics, reduce environmental impact, and forge a path toward a more sustainable future. Their commitment to bridging academia and industry underscores the transformative power of collaboration in driving technological innovation and ecological responsibility.
OpenGov Asia recently reported that a leading U.S.-based global player in the realm of advanced technology and innovation is embarking on a significant expansion venture into Malaysia. The construction of a cutting-edge manufacturing facility is already underway, which will serve a dual purpose as a global research and development hub, focusing on pioneering technology platforms. By the year 2024, this organisation foresees a pivotal role in augmenting production capacity and accommodating the ever-evolving demands of its expansive worldwide clientele.
Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU) and a Korean company that conducts education and research activities for practical application based on the theoretical background of corporate valuation formalised a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that marks the initiation of a promising collaborative venture. This partnership heralds a new era of cooperation between the two parties, focusing on the realms of technology research, development, and education.
APU stands at the forefront of the digital technology frontier. The institution’s prestigious Premier Digital Tech University status, conferred by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), underscores its commitment to technology-focused education. APU boasts an array of technology-oriented degree programs and has a commendable track record in both pedagogy and technological advancements. Meanwhile, the company is a prominent institution in Korea, deeply engaged in technology commercialisation, technology valuation, and bolstering the startup ecosystem.
At the heart of this collaboration lies a set of key objectives aimed at fostering innovation in startup culture, fortifying existing technology practices, and facilitating a dynamic exchange of knowledge and technology between academia and industry leaders.
One of the cornerstones of this partnership is the promotion of research and development (R&D) in the startup domain. Both parties are keen to stimulate innovation in the startup ecosystem, and this MOU paves the way for substantial progress in this regard. The exchange of ideas and resources promises to be mutually beneficial, with the potential to catalyse groundbreaking innovations.
Furthermore, the collaboration envisions a robust synergy in the realm of technology education. APU and KVA will pool their expertise and resources to enhance the educational experience for students, including the provision of student internships, pathways to career opportunities, and the facilitation of industrial final-year projects. This will not only equip students with practical, hands-on experience but also foster a deeper understanding of the dynamic technology landscape.
Joint conferences and knowledge-sharing initiatives are also on the horizon. Both institutions recognise the value of discourse and aim to become leaders in organising events that bring together academia and industry professionals to exchange ideas and insights. In addition, the two parties have committed to acting as mentors for startups, offering invaluable guidance and support, and serving as guest speakers for webinars and talks, thereby nurturing the next generation of tech entrepreneurs.
The official signing of this MOU was a momentous occasion, graced by the presence of eminent individuals. The Vice Chancellor of APU and the Executive Director of the institution solidified the partnership. The Chief Innovation and Enterprise Officer of APU was also present at the signing. The signing ceremony took place in the state-of-the-art campus of APU, in MRANTI Park, Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur. Key representatives from both organisations were gathered.
The Memorandum of Understanding represents a substantial stride in their collective pursuit of nurturing innovation and advancing technology, according to the Vice Chancellor of APU. The prospect of collaborating closely with KVA to generate prospects for their students and actively contribute to the expansion of the technology ecosystem is a source of great enthusiasm and underscores the unwavering dedication of both parties to cultivating technological innovation.
The Executive Director of the institution echoed this sentiment, expressing wholehearted support for the collaboration. He emphasised the company’s dedication to advancing technology commercialisation and entrepreneurship. He highlighted that this collaboration with APU would empower them to harness each other’s strengths, ultimately making a substantial impact in the field.
Under the MoU, both APU and KVA will select candidates, students, or staff to participate in a range of activities. The hosting party will play a pivotal role by providing mentorship and essential resources. APU, as an educational institution, will extend academic support and grant access to its state-of-the-art facilities. In contrast, KVA will provide invaluable expertise and support for joint research and development projects, drawing on its extensive experience in technology commercialisation.
OpenGov Asia reported earlier that Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, is poised to enhance its collaboration with Malaysia, with a specific emphasis on fostering technological advancements through the exchange of students, academics, and researchers.
The Prime Minister of Malaysia revealed that during a courtesy meeting with Tsinghua University’s President discussions encompassed the prospect of joint research initiatives and the commemoration of the upcoming 50th anniversary of Malaysia-China diplomatic relations.
Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, is poised to enhance its collaboration with Malaysia, with a specific emphasis on fostering technological advancements through the exchange of students, academics, and researchers. The Prime Minister of Malaysia revealed that during a courtesy meeting with Tsinghua University’s President discussions encompassed the prospect of joint research initiatives and the commemoration of the upcoming 50th anniversary of Malaysia-China diplomatic relations.
The collaboration with Tsinghua University holds immense promise, particularly in the realm of technology and engineering, given its global reputation for academic research and educational excellence. The Malaysian PM expressed his optimism regarding this partnership, highlighting Tsinghua University’s outstanding contributions to the fields of engineering, science, and technology.
Currently, there is a substantial presence of Malaysian students at Tsinghua University, totalling 350 individuals. Notably, this constitutes the largest cohort of foreign students at the institution, underscoring the burgeoning interest among Malaysians in pursuing education in cutting-edge technological disciplines.
In addition to facilitating student exchanges, this collaboration also aims to foster closer ties between Malaysian and Chinese researchers, encouraging the development of innovative solutions in the tech sector. Tsinghua University’s commitment to holding a special program in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and China further underscores its dedication to strengthening technological cooperation.
Tsinghua University’s collaboration with Malaysia represents an exciting opportunity to propel technological advancements forward, enabling knowledge-sharing, joint research ventures, and academic exchanges in fields crucial to the future of both nations.
The collaboration between Tsinghua University and the Malaysian government is aligned with several key national goals. It supports Malaysia’s efforts to develop its human capital by providing access to world-class education in technology and innovation.
This partnership contributes to technological advancement and research in fields like engineering and science, in line with Malaysia’s economic diversification goals. Additionally, it enhances diplomatic relations with China and promotes internationalisation in higher education. Furthermore, the collaboration helps raise the quality of education in Malaysia and supports the nation’s aim to stimulate economic growth through innovation and knowledge-based industries.
OpenGov Asia earlier reported that in the first half of 2023, Malaysia attracted investments totalling RM132.6 billion (US$28.4 billion) across various sectors, setting a confident tone for its economic growth. These investments are projected to create approximately 51,853 job opportunities, a testament to Malaysia’s appeal to investors worldwide.
Malaysia’s investment climate is boosted by several factors:
- Pro-Business Policies: The Malaysian government is dedicated to fostering pro-business policies and continually improving the ease of doing business in the country.
- Strategic Location: Situated in Asia, Malaysia boasts robust growth potential, making it an attractive location for investors.
- Hub for Ecosystem and Supply Chain: Malaysia serves as a trusted hub for supply chains, capital, talent, goods, and data.
- Innovation Capabilities: The nation’s innovation capabilities are on the rise, further enhancing its attractiveness to investors.
A substantial portion of these investments, 52.2%, came from Domestic Direct Investment (DDI), amounting to RM69.3 billion (US$14.8 billion), marking an impressive 58.2% increase compared to the previous year. DDI’s growth was driven by investments in services and the primary sector, particularly real estate.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) played a significant role, contributing 47.8% of total approved investments, equivalent to RM63.3 billion (US$13.6 billion). Singapore emerged as the leading source of FDI with RM13.7 billion (US$2.9 billion), followed by countries like Japan, the Netherlands, China, and the British Virgin Islands.
A group of talented young engineers and researchers from the Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU) has achieved international recognition for their groundbreaking innovation, RescueAI: Smart City Disaster Management System with AI and Aerial Robotics. They won a Gold Medal at the 12th World Invention Creativity Olympic (WICO) 2023.
The Turkish Inventors Association (TÜMMİAD) bestowed the Gold Medal Award upon RescueAI, further affirmed by recognition from the Toronto International Society of Innovation & Advanced Skills (TISIAS). WICO 2023, held in Seoul, South Korea, was organised by the Korea University Invention Association (KUIA) and sponsored by the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea.
RescueAI is the culmination of efforts by a team of experts and students from APU’s School of Engineering (SoE) and the Center for Research and Development of IoT (CREDIT). This project was led by Dipl-Ing. Ir. Narendran Ramasenderan, Mr. Krishna Ravinchandra, Ng Joo Kiat, Cajun Tai Ka Joon, Ang Jia Ze, and Cheng Yi Heng. Their prototype stands as a beacon of progress in the realm of disaster management.
The system’s core capabilities lie in its use of artificial intelligence (AI) and aerial robotics to gather real-time environmental data, encompassing critical factors like weather conditions, structural damage, and the precise location of individuals and assets. This data forms the foundation for the creation of a digital twin of the disaster-stricken area, enabling the simulation of diverse scenarios and the formulation of optimal response strategies.
The team is engaged in the commercialisation of RescueAI, and their aim is to make the system accessible to governments and enterprises worldwide, underscoring the global impact of their innovation.
While RescueAI is at the forefront of its achievements, APU is also making its mark in other arenas. Ng Joo Kiat, Chang Kah Boon, and Cheng Yi Heng, representing APU’s Team Delta, participated in the DB-SNUbiz Global Startup Challenge 2023. This competition featured RescueAI as a project addressing the challenges posed by climate change-induced extreme weather events such as heatwaves and floods.
In a significant departure from conventional 2D dashboards, Team Delta conceptualised a 3D Digital Twin model, offering a more intuitive representation of flood and fire disasters. This innovative model facilitates precise flood simulations, anticipating the spread and impact of floods on various locations with accuracy.
Drones equipped with sensors and pre-trained YOLOv8 models play a pivotal role in recording real-time data, which continuously updates the Digital Twin model to ensure data accuracy. Furthermore, the team is in the process of developing a mobile app designed for reporting flood and fire incidents. This app boasts AI detection and alarm functions, streamlining the reporting process and expediting emergency responses.
The achievements of the Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU) team with RescueAI closely align with the Malaysian government’s larger goals. Malaysia aims to enhance disaster resilience and management, and the innovative Disaster Management System exemplifies this commitment.
Furthermore, by garnering global recognition and showcasing Malaysia’s technological prowess, RescueAI contributes to the government’s agenda of promoting innovation and technology as drivers of economic growth. The project’s success underscores Malaysia’s capacity for innovation, augments economic opportunities in AI and robotics, and positions the nation as a player on the global innovation stage, aligning with the government’s overarching development objectives.
OpenGov Asia reported earlier that a robotics company that provides intelligent unmanned delivery solutions for global enterprises recently forged a strategic partnership with the Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU). This collaboration is poised to be a significant driver of academic, technological, and industry-sharing initiatives, with the ultimate aim of reshaping the field of robotics and automation.
The partnership was formally solidified through the robotics company’s Malaysian representative and distributor. The representative holds the exclusive distribution rights for service robots in Malaysia, and it also supplies a range of health and wellness products locally and internationally. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed at APU’s state-of-the-art campus situated in the vibrant city of Kuala Lumpur.
A prominent player in the oats industry, tracing its origins back to its establishment in 1965, inaugurated a new cutting-edge oat processing plant in Malaysia. This company has consistently evolved and embraced innovation, establishing itself as a major contributor to the global export of oat products.
The recent success of this enterprise can be largely attributed to its strategic investments in cutting-edge technologies. The newly unveiled plant will have an expansive floor area and specialise in the production of a diverse range of oat products, including oat flakes, kilned dried hulled oats, oat bran, and oat flour.
Malaysian government officials and industry experts have lauded the expansion, recognising its positive impact on the local economy and its alignment with broader industrial development plans. The company’s emphasis on technology and production capacity not only benefits its supply chain but also enhances its position in the global market, particularly within the Halal food sector. Additionally, the increased capacity aligns seamlessly with national food security goals, contributing to the accessibility and affordability of food, especially healthy products.
The Deputy Managing Director of the company has emphasised their commitment to expanding their product offerings and capacity to meet market demands. With an impressive 58 years of experience in oat milling, they remain dedicated to innovation and sustainability.
The newly inaugurated oat processing plant uses state-of-the-art automation and advanced technology to ensure impeccable control over the entire oat milling process, guaranteeing consistency and quality in every product it delivers to the market.
This commitment to quality and innovation has been duly recognised by certifications from global food authorities, including FSSC 22000, ISO 22000, and HACCP, as well as Halal and non-GMO certifications. These certifications not only underscore the company’s dedication to delivering safe and high-quality products but also highlight its embrace of modern technology in food processing, ensuring that every product meets stringent global standards.
The plan is to explore ways to enhance its sales and marketing efforts. Leveraging data-driven strategies and digital platforms, the company aims to reach a wider audience and cater to the evolving preferences of consumers, particularly the younger generation.
Leveraging the new cutting-edge facility, the company is expected to extend its reach into the rapidly growing plant-based beverage and meat industries. Additionally, it will be unveiling a Captain Innovation Hub, scheduled for completion by 2028. This hub aligns seamlessly with the pursuit of healthier lifestyles, aiming to introduce a range of innovative oat products to the younger generation, all of which will be underpinned by advanced technology.
This move aligns with key initiatives of the Malaysian government. The advanced automation mirrors the government’s push for technology-intensive industries over labour-intensive ones, while its commitment to Halal certification bolsters Malaysia’s reputation as a provider of high-quality Halal products.
Furthermore, the company’s increased milling capacity and production of nutritious oat products support national food security objectives, and its global success contributes to Malaysia’s trade goals. The forthcoming Captain Innovation Hub underscores its dedication to innovation and sustainability, paralleling the government’s encouragement of forward-looking industries, ultimately showcasing how private sector enterprises can advance Malaysia’s economic and strategic aspirations.
OpenGov Asia has also reported that MIDA has signed a Collaborative Agreement with a global leader in intelligent sensing and emitting technology. A key component of this plan was the establishment of an advanced 8-inch microLED manufacturing facility in Kulim, Malaysia.
This facility, characterised by its state-of-the-art automation and technology, is a groundbreaking development in the global microLED industry. Construction of this pioneering facility commenced in 2022, and it is well on its way to completion.
A leading U.S.-based global player in the realm of advanced technology and innovation is embarking on a significant expansion venture into Malaysia. The CEO of the enterprise unveiled an ambitious strategy during a meeting with Malaysia’s Minister of Investment, Trade, and Industry in New York City, aiming to invest a substantial sum exceeding RM2 billion over the span of seven years.
The construction of a cutting-edge manufacturing facility is already underway, which will serve a dual purpose as a global research and development hub, focusing on pioneering technology platforms. By the year 2024, this organisation foresees a pivotal role in augmenting production capacity and accommodating the ever-evolving demands of its expansive worldwide clientele.
The Minister offered a warm reception to the global expansion, accentuating the organisation’s initial investment commitment of RM500 million. This commitment dovetails seamlessly with Malaysia’s New Industrial Master Plan 2030, underlining the importance of nurturing an investment-friendly environment and swiftly assimilating technology into the manufacturing sector.
It solidifies Malaysia’s stature as a global epicentre for technology and innovation, fostering collaboration between the organization and local industry stakeholders, all while promising a surge in quality employment opportunities for Malaysians.
The CEO of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority conveyed his excitement regarding this significant commitment, recognizing its potential to catalyse mutually beneficial partnerships with domestic industry players, particularly in high-value, high-growth sectors. The organization’s long-term presence in Malaysia is poised to make a substantial contribution to the nation’s economic growth and development, with MIDA pledging unwavering support.
The President and CEO of the company expressed a sense of pride in expanding its global footprint and elevating its operations in Malaysia through the establishment of a cutting-edge manufacturing facility in Johor Bahru. This facility is slated to become the linchpin for catering to global customers across diverse sectors and holds the promise of swift market entry. The suite of incentives offered by various government entities, spanning federal, state, and local levels, coupled with robust infrastructure support, make this expansion a judicious and strategic investment.
OpenGov Asia recently reported that the substantial investments pouring into Malaysia during the first half of 2023, totalling RM132.6 billion (US$28.4 billion) and expected to generate over 51,853 job opportunities, are a clear testament to the nation’s attractiveness to global investors. These investments align perfectly with Malaysia’s vision of becoming a prominent hub for technology, innovation, and economic growth.
The Minister of Investment, Trade, and Industry (MITI) expressed his satisfaction with Malaysia’s performance, emphasising the nation’s consistent efforts to attract high-quality investments and drive economic growth. Importantly, Malaysia managed to secure an impressive 60.3% of its annual investment target within the first half of the year, reflecting its ability to execute on its investment plans effectively.
A significant portion of these investments, 52.2%, came from Domestic Direct Investment (DDI), totalling RM69.3 billion (US$14.8 billion). DDI’s remarkable growth, a 58.2% increase compared to the previous year, was driven by investments in services and the primary sector, notably real estate. This surge in domestic investment showcases the confidence of Malaysian businesses in the nation’s economic prospects.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) also played a pivotal role, contributing 47.8% of total approved investments, equivalent to RM63.3 billion (US$13.6 billion). Notably, Singapore emerged as the leading source of FDI with RM13.7 billion (US$2.9 billion), followed closely by countries such as Japan, the Netherlands, China, and the British Virgin Islands. This international investment inflow underscores Malaysia’s global appeal and its ability to attract funds from diverse sources.
Malaysia’s ability to attract significant investments, coupled with its supportive policies, strategic positioning, role as a supply chain hub, and growing innovation capabilities, reflects the nation’s commitment to becoming a global technology and innovation hub while fostering economic growth and job creation.
The world’s first integrated cyber defence, cyber security, and emerging technology event, CYDES 2023, took place at the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre (MITEC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, highlighting the importance of addressing cyber-threat challenges and fostering collaboration within the ASEAN region.
Cybersecurity leaders across Asia concur that collaboration and breaking down silos among organisations and sectors are essential for success in tackling the complex and ever-evolving challenges of cybersecurity, ensuring the preservation of digital infrastructure.
David Koh, Commissioner of Cybersecurity and Chief Executive of the Cyber Security Agency (CSA) of Singapore, emphasised the importance of collaboration among different agencies to effectively address cybersecurity challenges, “Cyber is a team sport. We can’t do this by ourselves.”
For example, the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore works closely with the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, and the Ministry of Communications and Information to share critical information and coordinate responses to cyber threats.
However, to effectively combat cyber threats, government agencies require the cooperation and active involvement of businesses, academia, and civil society as valuable partners in the collective effort to strengthen cybersecurity measures.
According to David, in the rapidly evolving cyberspace landscape, private companies possess valuable intelligence, operational capabilities, and technical know-how that complement government efforts, making partnering with the private sector essential for robust cybersecurity measures.
This collaborative approach fosters a comprehensive and unified response, leveraging diverse expertise and resources to safeguard digital infrastructures and protect against evolving cyber threats.
“Governments must therefore collaborate with the private sector to enhance their cybersecurity posture,” David believes. “Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) play a crucial role in fostering information sharing, promoting collaborative research and development, and driving innovation in cybersecurity, enabling governments and private companies to jointly address the ever-growing challenges of the digital era.”
The successful partnership between the Singaporean government and a private technology corporation during the response to the SolarWinds attack exemplifies how PPPs can leverage private sector expertise to obtain critical technical information and develop actionable indicators of compromise, enhancing the collective cybersecurity defence capabilities.
This is merely one instance in which PPPs can assist the public sector in enhancing its cybersecurity posture. Governments and companies can make the digital world safer for everyone by working together and safeguarding individuals, businesses and critical infrastructures in the digital frontier.
David highlighted the importance of adopting a new perspective, urging governments to share information with private businesses and embrace innovative ideas. This shift is challenging yet essential for effective cybersecurity in the digital world. By adjusting their approach and collaborating with private companies, governments can contribute to a safer digital environment for all.
Indeed, Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) play a crucial role in cybersecurity, as they bridge the gap between the public and private sectors. By sharing information, expertise, and resources, these partnerships enhance the collective ability to detect, prevent, and respond to cyber threats effectively.
Moreover, PPPs facilitate the development of new technologies and innovative solutions, fostering a collaborative environment for tackling evolving cybersecurity challenges. Ultimately, such collaborations improve the coordination of cybersecurity efforts, leading to a more robust and secure global digital landscape and the world (digital and physical) a safer place for everyone.
Shamsul Bahri Hj Kamis, Interim Commissioner of Cyber Security Brunei (CSB), highlighted the need to examine current systems to harmonise cybersecurity in ASEAN. In 2017, ASEAN member states developed the ASEAN Cybersecurity Cooperation Strategy, outlining directions, objectives, and action plans to strengthen cybersecurity in the region.
The policy aims to tackle communication challenges arising from the multitude of sectoral groups within ASEAN working on cybersecurity. This is particularly challenging due to ASEAN’s consensus-based decision-making process, which can sometimes hinder progress.
However, various measures to address cybersecurity in ASEAN are already underway. The ASEAN Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), which coordinates the response to cybersecurity incidents, and the ASEAN Cybersecurity Capacity Programme, which provides training and assistance to ASEAN member states in developing their cybersecurity capabilities, are two examples.
“To move forward, ASEAN must devise a strategy for more effectively sharing information and collaborating on addressing the most severe cyber threats,” Shamsul elaborates. “This will necessitate tight collaboration among governments, corporations and civil society.”
Shamsul believes that collaboration within ASEAN can create a secure and resilient digital environment for people and businesses. He stressed the need for shared awareness of the region’s risks and challenges, as well as a clear division of responsibilities among the various sectoral bodies.
Strengthening information sharing within ASEAN and with other nations, along with a focus on capacity building in member states, is essential as cybersecurity should be embraced as a shared responsibility by all stakeholders.
“By resolving these issues, ASEAN can make substantial strides towards regional cybersecurity harmonisation,” Shamsul is convinced.
Shariffah Rashidah Syed Othman, Acting Chief Executive of the National Cyber Security Agency of Malaysia (NACSA), agrees that cybersecurity is increasingly becoming a critical concern for governments and businesses globally, particularly in the ASEAN region, where the rapidly growing digital economy necessitates strong cybersecurity measures.
According to Shariffah, the cross-border nature of cyber threats is one of ASEAN’s greatest cybersecurity challenges. Cybercriminals can simply target victims in one country while operating from another. As a result, governments find it difficult to confront cyber threats on their own.
“By combining the resources and experience of governments and businesses, public-private partnerships can assist in addressing this challenge. Governments can provide regulatory and financial support, while businesses can share knowledge about cyber dangers and best practices,” Shariffah says.
Partnerships between the public and private sectors play a vital role in addressing the barrier of a lack of understanding of cyber risks in the ASEAN region. By collaborating, they can raise awareness of internet threats, educate businesses, and individuals on cybersecurity best practices, and collectively work towards creating a safer digital environment for all.
“ASEAN leaders must recognise that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility. Governments, businesses, and individuals must all work together to secure the region from cyber dangers,” Shariffah stressed.
The comprehensive strategy for enhancing cybersecurity in the region must encompass strengthened government cooperation, information sharing on cyber dangers, increased cyber risk awareness, improved critical infrastructure security, and robust protection of personal data. By addressing these crucial aspects collectively, ASEAN can build a more resilient and secure digital ecosystem for its residents and businesses.
Shariffah outlines several key advantages of public-private partnerships in cybersecurity, such as bridging the divide between technical and non-technical skills, fostering trust and collaboration between governments and enterprises, and facilitating the effective implementation of cybersecurity measures.
By leveraging these partnerships, ASEAN can enhance its cybersecurity capabilities, as governments and companies work together to create a safer and more secure digital environment for everyone in the region.
Shariffah advocates practising “cyber hygiene,” urging individuals to be vigilant about online risks and take proactive measures to protect themselves. This includes using strong passwords, regularly updating software, and exercising caution when sharing personal information on the internet. By promoting cyber hygiene, individuals can play an active role in safeguarding their digital security and contributing to a safer online environment for all.
She also stressed the importance of empathy in cybersecurity, highlighting the need to understand diverse perspectives and communicate in a language that is accessible to all. Recognising the different viewpoints held by individuals is crucial in addressing cybersecurity challenges effectively and fostering a collaborative and inclusive approach to cybersecurity initiatives.
“Cybersecurity is more than just a technical problem – it is a societal issue. Thus everyone needs to be included in the discussion. We can all live in a safer digital environment if we all work together,” Shariffah is convinced.
Indeed, understanding that cybersecurity is not solely a tech challenge but also a community one underscores the importance of involving all stakeholders. By acknowledging the broader societal implications of cybersecurity, public-private partnerships can effectively address challenges and implement comprehensive solutions that safeguard everyone in the digital landscape.
Cybersecurity for SMEs: A Workable Model
David Koh, Commissioner of Cybersecurity and Chief Executive of the Cyber Security Agency (CSA), knows the universal importance of cybersecurity for all organisations but understands there are challenges faced by small and medium-sized firms (SMEs). Due to limited resources and experience, SMEs may find it more difficult to implement effective cybersecurity measures.
The Cyber Security Agency (CSA) in Singapore has created a variety of programmes to assist SMEs in strengthening their cybersecurity posture. The Cyber Essentials mark, which offers a set of fundamental cybersecurity measures that all firms should follow, is one of these initiatives.
The Cyber Essentials mark four important areas including:
- Asset management: Includes cybersecurity awareness for its employees, and classifying and identifying each asset in your company, including its hardware, software, and data.
- Secure and Protect: This entails limiting who has access to and what they can do with the resources of your company.
- Update, backup, and Respond.
“SMEs can begin by adopting Cyber Essentials as a foundational step to strengthen their cybersecurity posture,” David advises. “However, these are just initial restrictions, and SMEs may need to implement additional measures based on their specific requirements and threats.”
If SMEs want to strengthen their cybersecurity posture, they should start with the Cyber Essentials,” David says. It’s crucial to keep in mind that these are merely fundamental, basic restrictions. Depending on their particular requirements and dangers, SMEs may need to implement additional steps, adding that CSA would be happy to share its framework with regional partners like Malaysia and Brunei.
Alongside the Cyber Essentials mark, the Cyber Security Agency (CSA) offers a range of tools to support SMEs in enhancing their cybersecurity. These resources encompass a cybersecurity training programme tailored for SMEs, a dedicated cybersecurity helpline, and a list of certified cybersecurity consultants who can guide SMEs in implementing the Cyber Essentials effectively.
By leveraging the CSA tools, SMEs can significantly bolster their cybersecurity defences and safeguard their businesses against online threats, ensuring the security and protection of their valuable assets and sensitive information.
In addition to CSA’s initiatives, SMEs can bolster their cybersecurity posture through various measures, including ensuring regular software updates, which often include vital security patches to safeguard against known vulnerabilities. Individuals can enhance their cybersecurity by using strong passwords and password management software, while organisations can educate their staff about cybersecurity threats.
Moreover, having a well-defined response plan for cyber incidents is essential for effective cybersecurity management.
“By adopting these measures, SMEs can protect themselves from cyber threats and maintain the security of their businesses,” David concluded.
Shamsul spoke about the Cyber Consortium, a regional programme established in 2021, aimed at bolstering the cybersecurity posture of Southeast Asian SMEs. Comprising academic institutions, IT partners, cybersecurity experts, companies, students, and government regulatory agencies, this collaboration focuses on enhancing cybersecurity resilience in the region.
The Cyber Consortium offers a comprehensive array of services to SMEs, including cybersecurity assessments, training and education, technical support for implementing security measures, and networking opportunities with other SMEs and cybersecurity experts, all aimed at strengthening their cybersecurity defences.
“It is a useful tool for SMEs trying to strengthen their cybersecurity posture. SMEs can get the assistance they need to safeguard their companies against cyber dangers by joining the consortium,” Shamsul believes.
Shariffa acknowledges the dynamic nature of the cybersecurity landscape, with evolving technologies and adaptable cyber threats posing challenges for enterprises and individuals to stay updated with the latest security measures.
“Malaysia’s government has made several efforts to assist businesses in improving their cybersecurity posture,” she reveals. “Funding a programme to assess SMEs’ cybersecurity; collaborating with the local sector to deliver managed security services to SMEs; and collaborating with telcos to impose basic cybersecurity hygiene on their services are all part of this.”
While the mentioned actions are valuable, there are further steps that businesses and individuals can take to bolster their protection against cyber threats. Staying vigilant and informed about the latest cybersecurity risks is crucial, involving keeping abreast of security news, reading security blogs, and participating in security conferences to stay well-prepared.
Adopting a layered security strategy is essential for businesses, involving the implementation of multiple security measures such as firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems to provide comprehensive protection.
For individuals, safeguarding against cyber dangers includes using strong and unique passwords, being cautious while sharing personal information online, and remaining vigilant about potential phishing scams to ensure greater online safety.
Education plays a crucial role in strengthening cybersecurity. Businesses should invest in training their staff to recognise and respond to cybersecurity threats effectively. Additionally, having a well-defined incident response plan ensures a swift and organised reaction to cyber incidents, minimising potential damage.
Regularly testing security systems and conducting vulnerability assessments are essential practices to identify and address potential weaknesses in the network. Keeping software up to date with the latest patches and security updates is a fundamental measure to protect against known vulnerabilities and potential exploits.
“The cybersecurity landscape is continuously evolving, but by taking precautions, organisations and individuals may help keep themselves safe from cyber threats,” Shariffa ends. “Combining various efforts can significantly enhance the cybersecurity posture for both businesses and individuals.”
Trust Building in ASEAN Cybersecurity
David believes that focusing on shared goals is a powerful strategy to build trust and foster collaboration among diverse parties in the realm of cybersecurity. Establishing common objectives, such as protecting critical infrastructure from cyber threats, enables everyone involved to unite their efforts towards a collective purpose, leading to more effective and coordinated cybersecurity measures.
“By aligning interests and recognising mutual benefits, stakeholders can work together in harmony to strengthen cybersecurity and safeguard digital environments,” he says.
Sharing information is indeed a crucial approach to building trust and enhancing cybersecurity efforts among different organisations. While it may be challenging to exchange sensitive data, the benefits of sharing outweigh the risks. Timely and accurate information sharing enables organisations to recognise and respond to cyber threats more swiftly and effectively.
“Cybersecurity is a complex challenge, but we can conquer it if we all work together,” David says. “Organisations can construct a more secure and robust digital infrastructure by breaking down silos across organisations and industries and sharing information.”
David stressed the importance of teamwork in cybersecurity, akin to an international team sport requiring countries to cooperate and work together. Global collaboration with partners worldwide was highlighted, as well as, investing in education and training to raise awareness of cybersecurity risks, and developing new technologies to enhance defence against cyber threats.
“We can make the digital world a safer place for everyone if we all work together,” David is confident.
Shamsul appreciates the necessity of trust for effective cybersecurity collaboration, noting that countries lacking trust are less likely to exchange information or cooperate in responding to cyber threats.
Several initiatives are currently underway in ASEAN to strengthen trust and collaboration among member states. Some of these efforts include:
- The ASEAN Cybersecurity Capacity Building Centres in Thailand and Singapore
- The ASEAN Partners Search Information Sharing (APSIS) initiative
- The ASEAN Cybersecurity Cooperation Strategy, which calls for the establishment of an ASEAN Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT)
“These activities are assisting in the development of trust among ASEAN member states as well as the improvement of the region’s cybersecurity posture,” Shamsul explains. “However, more work remains to be done.”
Establishing a shared understanding of cybersecurity threats and risks presents a key challenge for effective collaboration among ASEAN member states. Different countries may have varying levels of awareness and perception of cyber dangers, making it crucial to bridge the knowledge gap and foster common ground for tackling cybersecurity issues.
Furthermore, ensuring the safe and secure sharing of information is paramount to building trust and promoting collaboration in cybersecurity efforts. Governments and organisations need robust and reliable mechanisms to exchange critical data and threat intelligence without compromising sensitive information or exposing vulnerabilities.
Despite the challenges faced in establishing shared understanding and secure information sharing, the progress made in enhancing cybersecurity collaboration among ASEAN member nations is encouraging. By continuing to work together and build trust, these countries have the potential to create a more secure and resilient digital future for the region.
Shamsul underscored the importance of a “tangible platform” for knowledge sharing, highlighting its role in fostering trust among ASEAN member states and ensuring the secure and confidential exchange of information. Having a reliable and accessible platform can serve as a foundation for effective collaboration, enabling countries to share valuable insights, best practices, and threat intelligence in real-time.
The National Trust Framework serves as a valuable resource for ASEAN countries seeking to enhance their cybersecurity posture, offering a comprehensive set of recommendations to safeguard critical infrastructure, personal data, and sensitive information.
By exploring this framework, ASEAN countries can save time and costs while building a strong cybersecurity architecture, avoiding the need to reinvent the wheel as the framework provides a solid foundation for their efforts.
“ASEAN countries, I believe, may collaborate to localise and harmonise the National Trust Framework,” said Shamsul. “It would enhance the regional cybersecurity architecture and would improve effectiveness and readiness of ASEAN countries against cyber threats.”
According to Shariffa, building effective human firewalls requires confidence in the commitment of individuals and organisations to cybersecurity, which involves open and willing information sharing about security procedures, ultimately fostering trust and creating a safer and more robust digital ecosystem for countries.
ASEAN countries are dedicated to enhancing regional cybersecurity through collaboration, acknowledging their diverse capacities and competencies. They are working on a flexible framework to facilitate cooperation at individual countries’ respective paces.
As a result, ASEAN cybersecurity mechanisms were established to:
- be a valuable resource for ASEAN countries. It will provide them with access to information and expertise that they may not have otherwise had.
- help to improve coordination between ASEAN countries. This will make it easier for them to share information and respond to cyber threats.
- assist in raising awareness of cybersecurity risks in the region to protect individuals and businesses from cyber-attacks.
Shariffa emphasised that the implementation of the mechanism will involve designating a unit within each ASEAN country. This agency will be responsible for collaborating with other ASEAN nations, sharing information on cyber threats and incidents, and providing technical support to other countries.
The creation of this mechanism represents a significant advancement in ASEAN’s efforts to improve cybersecurity. ASEAN countries can better protect themselves from cyber-attacks and build a more secure digital environment for all by working together.
“The creation of the ASEAN cybersecurity mechanism is a great step forward. It demonstrates the region’s dedication to enhancing cybersecurity,” Shariffa ends.
ASEAN’s Commitment to Improve Cybersecurity
David explained that ASEAN’s ministers have approved a plan to establish a regional Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) for the region. The ASEAN CERT will serve as a platform for knowledge sharing and skill-building within the region, complementing the existing national CERTs and working collaboratively to enhance cybersecurity across ASEAN.
The ASEAN CERT will strengthen sharing information about cyber threats and incidents; coordinating CERT capacity building programmes in the region; coming up with and supporting best practices for cybersecurity; and educating people about cybersecurity risks and making them more aware of them.
“The ASEAN CERT is a move in the right direction for the region’s attempts to improve cybersecurity,” said David. “By working together, ASEAN countries can protect themselves better from online threats and make the internet safer for everyone.”
The ASEAN CERT will be a valuable resource for member countries, providing access to knowledge and information that may not have been readily available before. By fostering better collaboration and information sharing among the nations, the ASEAN CERT will enhance their collective ability to address cyber threats effectively and strengthen their cybersecurity posture as a united front.
By providing valuable insights into hacking risks, ASEAN CERT will empower individuals and businesses to better protect themselves from cyber-attacks, contributing to a safer digital environment for all. This initiative showcases the region’s commitment to improving cybersecurity and fostering a collective effort to address cyber threats effectively.
Shamsul shares that the ASEAN CERT will collaborate with both foreign and regional groups to advance ASEAN’s cybersecurity objectives and interests. Currently, there is no official platform for CERTs to communicate with one another, making it vital for ASEAN CERTs to foster collaboration, share knowledge, and exchange best practices.
“This collective effort will strengthen the region’s ability to address cyber threats effectively and establish a more secure digital landscape for all ASEAN member states,” he is confident.
The ASEAN CERT will establish partnerships with businesses and higher education institutions, appreciating the valuable information and expertise they possess to enhance cybersecurity. Collaborating with these sectors ensures access to the latest knowledge and skills, enabling ASEAN CERTs to effectively address emerging cyber threats and trends.
By fostering these alliances, the ASEAN CERT can stay at the forefront of cybersecurity advancements, making the region more resilient and better equipped to safeguard its digital landscape.
Shamsul concurs that the establishment of the ASEAN CERT marks a significant advancement in ASEAN’s efforts to enhance cybersecurity. Through collaboration with international and regional organisations, as well as industry and education sectors, the ASEAN CERT can play a crucial role in creating a safer digital environment for everyone in the region.
By fostering partnerships and sharing knowledge, the ASEAN CERT aims to bolster cybersecurity measures, effectively respond to cyber threats, and promote a more secure digital landscape in the ASEAN community.
Shariffa reiterated support for ASEAN initiatives like ASEAN CERT, highlighting that the Malaysian government is actively engaged in strengthening cybersecurity measures. They are currently working on a new Cybersecurity Bill aimed at granting the National Cyber Security Agency (NACSA) enhanced authority to safeguard the nation’s critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.
The proposed Cybersecurity Bill in Malaysia seeks to enforce robust security measures for critical national information infrastructure (CNII) owners and operators. By mandating appropriate security measures, the bill has the potential to significantly enhance Malaysia’s cybersecurity posture, bolstering the nation’s resilience against cyber threats and safeguarding its vital information assets.
Shariffa explains that the proposed Cybersecurity Bill aims to grant NACSA expanded investigative and response capabilities, while also imposing a requirement for CNII owners and operators to implement robust security measures.
This comprehensive approach would significantly bolster the protection of Malaysia’s critical infrastructure from cyberattacks, thereby reducing the risk of cyber espionage and enhancing the nation’s overall cybersecurity resilience.
Shariffa sees the proposed Cybersecurity Bill as a positive and transformative step that has the potential to make Malaysia a more secure nation in the digital age.
“With its comprehensive measures to strengthen cybersecurity, the bill can significantly enhance Malaysia’s resilience against cyber threats and safeguard the nation’s critical infrastructure and digital ecosystem,” she believes.
The CYDES 2023 event showcased the determination of ASEAN nations to address cybersecurity challenges and advance in this critical domain. With a focus on cooperation, a wealth of cybersecurity expertise and initiatives like the ASEAN CERT, the region is taking substantial steps towards enhancing its cybersecurity posture.
By continuing to invest in cybersecurity measures, fostering collaboration among member states, and leveraging their unique assets, ASEAN countries are well-positioned to create a safer and more secure digital environment for their residents and businesses in the ever-evolving digital age. Together, they can forge a path towards a more resilient and protected ASEAN region in the face of emerging cyber threats.