Defense Council approves cyber security master plan

2_cyber1With international computer hacking and data theft making headlines around the world, Thailand’s Defense Council approved a cyber security master plan last week to shore up the Kingdom’s computer and online defenses over the next five years, as cyber security will be essential to Thailand’s drive to transform to a digital economy built on innovation, research and development.

Deputy Prime Minister for security affairs Prawit Wongsuwon, who also serves as Defense Minister, chaired the meeting of the Defense Council that approved the draft. The master plan contains six work plans that outline measures to set up cyber organizations, protect infrastructure, prepare for cyber operations, develop cyber potential, support national cyber potential and plan cyber cooperation and strengths.

The plan also establishes a ministry-level cyber security center that will be connected to, and work in synergy with, the cyber command centers of the Royal Thai Army and other branches of the armed forces. The center will be operational in 2017 with assistance from the Office of the Defense Permanent Secretary, and the Defense Information and Space Technology Department.

Virtually ever branch of the Thai government agrees that the country must strengthen cyber security. The chiefs of the armed forces have said it is essential to cope with increasingly complex and sophisticated threats.

“Thailand is one of the world’s targets for cyber-security attacks and a haven for cyber-terrorism,” Gen Suttisak Slakcom, a Defense Ministry adviser said a few months ago. “Cyber-conflict is referred to as warfare in the fifth domain. We [the armed forces] are ready to enter the fifth domain after land, sea, air and space.”

He said that over 100 countries have set up cyber security commands or centers, and the need for Thailand to keep pace and move ahead is clear.

The central bank has also stressed the need for tighter and more advanced cyber security considering the advent of online or cyber financial technologies, known as “fintech,” and the potential for fraud, hacking and other nefarious activities that could harm the banking and financial communities, and consumers and the country in general.

Stronger cyber security is also a pillar in building and implementing Thailand 4.0, a 20-year national strategy to turn Thailand into a more advanced economy that relies on innovation, research and development, higher technology and creativity.

To enable that transition, innovators, researchers and companies need to operate in a secure environment, and while businesses and individuals need to be responsible for their own cyber security, they also need the government to establish a more secure national cyber environment that with additional layers of protections to buttress individual and private sector efforts.

The challenge is to provide a secure environment without inhibiting freedom of expression while also respecting privacy. It is a challenge many nations are grappling with as societies becomes more dependent on cyber technology, and more numerous and dangerous threats emerge in the cyber environment.