Former U.S. advisor urges stronger Thai digital defenses

As Thailand’s economy speeds towards advanced digital development, the country needs to build stronger cyber-security defenses in light of increasingly sophisticated global threats, said Richard Clarke, a former counterterrorism and security advisor to four United States presidents, at an international symposium in Bangkok last week.

“Thailand needs to sharply boost the number of computer security experts in coming years to manage the risks associated with the fast-growing digital economy,’’ said Clarke who is now Chief Executive Officer of Good Harbor LLC, a cyber-security consulting firm. Thailand has just 198 Certified Information Systems Security Professionals. The government is aiming to increase that number to 1,000 by 2022, but industry experts believe that will still be too few for the country’s rapidly growing cyber-security needs.

Clarke, who served in the State Department under President Ronald Reagan and as an advisor to Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, was speaking at a cyber-security symposium organized by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

He also urged Thailand to develop best practices on cyber security and related audits covering digital networks for both the public and private sectors, and also to increase spending on cyber security. Clarke said most countries and big companies only devote about 3 to 5 percent of their information technology budgets on cyber security, whereas they need to be spending about 10 percent.

Thailand is in the process of setting up a National Cyber Security Agency. It will be an independent body reporting to the Prime Minister.

The United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) recently ranked Thailand 20th out of 77 countrieson cyber security in an annual survey. The rankings were based on countries’ legal, technical and organizational institutions, their educational and research capabilities, and their cooperation in information-sharing networks.

The ITU said the first and most important step for countries to take was to develop and adopt a national cyber security strategy, but 50 percent of the countries surveyed had not done that.

“The importance of cyber security to Thailand’s economy is no secret,’’ the Bangkok Post newspaper wrote last week. “The staggering pace of adoption in the sharing economy and the government’s push for economic models along the lines of Thailand 4.0 will only deepen the country’s dependence on internet-related sectors.

“Globally, companies spend billions of dollars on cybersecurity, yet the risk of costly and privacy-undermining attacks is still reducing the value of the digital economy by trillions,’’ the Post wrote.