How frustrating must it be to have paid almost $6,000 for an event only to be denied entry at its gates? Unfortunately, for many who turned up for the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, that was their experience. As organisers started to print out tickets from its website, both the LAN and WiFi connections failed, leaving hordes of spectators stranded outside the stadium.

This is just one example of why cybersecurity is crucial. 

The stark reality of cyber attacks

Among the many cyberattack horror stories that happen daily across the world, the worst part is that ransomware is for hire, on-demand. Cybercriminals today don’t even need to understand programming to pose a tangible threat.

With predictions that 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020, up from 700,000 two decades ago, Southeast Asia, having one of the world’s most rapidly expanding and digitising economies, is expected to contribute significantly to this growth. Hence, the region’s cybersecurity specialists have emphasised the urgent need for more robust cyber defence measures. David Koh, Singapore’s Commissioner of Cybersecurity and CEO of the country’s Cyber Security Agency, goes further to warn that “it’s clearly no longer a question of ‘if’, but rather ‘when’ an attack will happen”.

COVID-19: Adding fuel to the flames

With millions of employees currently working from home to try to slow the spread of the infectious coronavirus, cybersecurity just became an even more critical business issue. Unfortunately, the abruptly implemented social distancing measures have left many companies scrambling to keep up. Employees struggling to adapt to remote work can face immense pressure, and may unintentionally “observe exceptions to security standards”, such as transferring sensitive information onto unsecured personal computers for practical reasons.

Cybercriminals have pounced on the opportunity to exploit this situation, using the pandemic disarray as bait, and causing a substantial spike in malicious websites and email scams over the past few weeks alone. Consequently, IT teams are also under increasing stress to comprehensively protect company systems when users are accessing data from multiple locations. Southeast Asian companies need cybersecurity solutions and fast.

Cybersecurity firms to the rescue

The following five promising cybersecurity startups in Southeast Asia have developed products and services to empower organisations to tackle cyber threats from multiple ends.

Risk assessment and management: Seconize

Employing “advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms”, Seconize evaluates organisations’ digital operations to understand their on-premise and cloud systems’ cyber risk levels, providing a recommendation on how best to amp up safeguards around their digital assets. Its services include risk-based vulnerability management, compliance management, vendor risk management, mobile or web application assessments, and cyber insurance

User-control security: oneKIY

oneKIY addresses data privacy and security concerns via a user-controlled security system. Its cryptographic token is a one-stop wonder that allows users to securely store and transfer data and files, sign in to company accounts, and authenticate payments. Given the current remote working arrangements, such tokens can facilitate collaborations on team projects.

Facial recognition security: Keyless

Facial detection technology has been unlocking mobile phones for a while now, but Keyless takes this technology to new levels by enabling “multichannel authentication capabilities across platforms and devices”. By harnessing the power of “multi-party computation, zero-knowledge proofs, multi-modal biometrics, machine learning and user behaviour modelling”, corporations can not only secure their systems and data but also offer security and convenience to their customers.

Cloud infrastructure defence: Horangi

Horangi’s main product, Warden, helps organisations that use Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) cloud computing services protect their systems and data. It performs regular scans of companies’ AWS accounts as scheduled, identifies elements that could compromise the integrity of the cloud infrastructure, and provides recommendations on infrastructure reconfiguration.

The scan has three main foci – detecting significant security risks such as weak authentication protocols, blocking entry attempts from unauthorised parties, and automating governance and compliance frameworks to meet internationally recognised standards. The best part: Warden is so user-friendly that even individuals without cloud expertise can navigate it.

Employee cyber readiness: Right-Hand

As 90% of today’s cyberattacks occur because of employee slip-ups, it is crucial that all staff not only be cyber aware but cyber ready. This is what Right-Hand does best – “monitor, measure and mitigate employee-induced cyber risks in real-time”. Through enjoyable games and micro-learning methods, their products equip employees to observe internal cybersecurity policies and handle phishing situations


Despite a concerted global effort, it seems that it might take a while for the COVID-19 situation to be fully under control. In Southeast Asia alone, the virus has infected close to 15,500 as of 8th April, with daily numbers continuing to surge. Emboldened by the distraction and disruption caused by the pandemic, cybercriminals won’t be missing any opportunities to launch attacks. Hence, businesses in the region need to step up their cybersecurity urgently. Whichever measures enterprises and public bodies decide upon, now is the time to act or potentially suffer dire consequences.

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