Japan has launched a new effort to boost the cyber defence capabilities of six ASEAN members, including Cambodia, though some experts wondered if the arrangement was a good fit for either party.
Officials from Cambodia’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications are participating in a training session from February 20 to March 3, representatives of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) confirmed.
Representatives from Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Myanmar, and Vietnam are also participating in the training, which aims to prepare governments to respond to cyber attacks by carrying out simulated attacks on government organisations. The program is funded by JICA and will last three years.
“The purpose of this training is to develop human resources who understand necessary organizations, functions, technology, process, and human resources for cyber security incident response, particularly against advanced persistent threat,” JICA representative Chin Kimheang said in an email.
But some industry experts say Japan itself is still playing catch-up on cyber security. According to numerous experts, the country ignored all of its own vulnerabilities throughout the 2000s.
Since then, however, said Jon Condra, director of Asia-Pacific research at risk intelligence group Flashpoint, Japan has been ramping up its cyber defences in the lead up to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The country is also aiming to defend itself against a rapidly modernising China.
But Nir Kshetri, author of a book on cybersecurity in major economies, noted that as late as 2012, Japan had not officially acknowledged that cyber attacks were a serious threat.
While that is changing in the wake of several cyber attacks, the question of whether Cambodia and its cohorts can benefit from such instruction remains, Kshetri said, noting that “many ASEAN countries lack absorptive capacities to benefit from the drills and training”.
JICA yesterday acknowledged the “serious challenges for international society as a whole” posed by cyber threats, but declined to comment on Japan’s capabilities. Cambodia, meanwhile, is particularly vulnerable to hacking.
Last year, the Kingdom came in seventh on a list of Asia-Pacific countries vulnerable to cyber attacks, and a number of government sites have been hacked in recent years.
“Cambodia does not have a policy on cyber security yet,” said Vannarith Chheang, Chairman of the Cambodian Institute for Strategic Studies. “It’s a new concept, and capacity is low.”
But Kshetri says a robust cyber security regime is becoming imperative as “Cambodia increases its digitisation and attracts more cybercriminals”.