SINGAPORE — Findings from a new Asia-Pacific SASE survey commissioned by Fortinet from IDC revealed that there is a significant rise in security incidents due to hybrid work and the growth in managed and unmanaged connections, with 48% of surveyed organizations in Singapore reporting more than triple the number of breaches.

In addition, 70% of the respondents in Singapore have experienced at least a double increase in security incidents, with phishing, denial of service, data and identity theft, ransomware, and data loss among those identified as breaches.

The report is based on a survey conducted across nine countries in the Asia Pacific. It explores cybersecurity leaders’ perspectives on hybrid work and, in particular, how it impacted their organizations in the last year and their strategies to mitigate the security challenges arising from the adoption of hybrid work.

“As Singapore  continues to embrace the digital future and become a leader in the digital economy, it is essential that we acknowledge the increasing frequency and sophistication of cyber-attacks and data breaches. The shortage of skilled talent in the cybersecurity industry only makes this issue more challenging,” said Jess Ng, Country Manager of Fortinet Singapore.

With more companies coming on board the digitalisation route, cybersecurity is a critical part of their strategy to protect their company’s and customer’s data. With this, it is pertinent for those in the cybersecurity industry to come together and share the best industry practices to prevent any cyber attacks and ensure there are enough skilled cybersecurity experts in Singapore.

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“We have the widest footprint in the industry, and we see lots more threats. Once we see those threats, we want to make sure that it gets delivered to organisations whose job is to eliminate it,” said Rashish Pandey, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Fortinet Asia. 

Pandey also shared that his organisation is also focusing on capacity building as one of the current shortages the industry faces are trained cybersecurity professionals.

“How do we work with education institutions, or work with schools to provide the necessary training or curriculum? So that when students graduate, at the bare minimum they are cyber-aware and have the latest information on cybersecurity. We work with the World Economic Forum to bring awareness on cybersecurity not just as a technology issue but as a boardroom conversation,” added Pandey.

Lastly, the Fortinet Asia vice president of marketing and communications expressed,” I believe that cybersecurity is a teamsport. If the good guys come together, share their information and learnings, we can be a more secure place.”

The findings were shared in a media briefing held concurrently during the Accelerate Asia 2023 held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands, on May 25. Simon Piff, Research Vice President from IDC Asia / Pacific, was one of the speakers at the event, and he believes that the study shows the significance of focusing on investing in cloud-delivered solutions and adopting zero-trust architecture, which will mitigate security risks in a hybrid work environment.

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“These findings highlight the importance of prioritizing security posture and investing in cloud-delivered solutions that seamlessly integrate with on-prem solutions to manage hybrid work environments and mitigate risks. The preference for a single vendor and infrastructure convergence demonstrates the need for efficient management, and zero-trust architecture can enhance security and usability. Organizations need to address these challenges and invest in security solutions to support their hybrid workforce and reduce security threats,” said Piff, who shared about the complexities of cybersecurity, best practices and priorities for CIOs and CISOs at Accelerate Asia 2023.

Other key findings from the survey include a preference for a single vendor,  the rise of the ‘Branch-Office-of-One’, and ‘the need to secure cloud’. 

As hybrid work becomes more prevalent, workers need access to numerous external systems and cloud-based applications to maintain productivity. According to the survey, employees in Singapore require at least 25 connections to third-party cloud applications, which may heighten the possibility of security breaches. Over the next two years, 100% of respondents in Singapore expect this number to double, while more than 70% feel that this number will triple, exacerbating the risk. Maintaining network security while ensuring employee connectivity to third-party and cloud-based services is a significant challenge, as traditional security measures are inadequate.

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According to the survey, 92% of respondents in Singapore have a hybrid or fully remote working model, with more than two-thirds (68%) having at least 50% of their employees working in hybrid mode. This shift to remote work has resulted in employees becoming ‘branch offices of one,’ working from their homes or other locations outside the traditional office. 

“As the world shifts to hybrid work, organizations face the challenge of securing a ‘branch-office-of-one’ environment where employees and devices operate outside traditional office boundaries. The Survey underscores the urgency for organizations to adopt a comprehensive security strategy that addresses the complexity and risk posed by the growth of remote work. Single-Vendor SASE, with its converged networking and security capabilities, is proving to be a game-changer for many organizations seeking a simplified and consistent security posture for users both on and off the network,” shared Pandey.

The survey was conducted among 450 cybersecurity leaders from various countries across Asia, including Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. The survey respondents were from nine industries: manufacturing, retail, logistics, healthcare, financial service, and the public sector.