Photo - Samu Konttinen, F-Secure CEO
Just after finishing a local business radio station interview in Kuala Lumpur recently, Helskini-headquartered antivirus specialist F-Secure's global chief executive officer Samu Konttinen moved on to shared his industry insights with Computerworld Malaysia.
We quickly acknowledged the continuing increase and sophistication of cyberattacks in today's threatscape. And, as pointed out at the beginning of 2016 by national info security agency CyberSecurity Malaysia, we saw the expected surge in ransomware, which we hear from all points has been continuing to gain notoriety as the most prevalent form of cyberattacks last year.
However, at the top of his mind was the talent shortage in the cybersecurity industry: Konttinen said that more than one million specialist positions are vacant globally today.
"There is a huge talent shortage in the industry. I think globally, there are over one million vacant positions for cybersecurity specialists. If I were to give career advice to a 15-year-old, I would say to them 'Study engineering and cybersecurity. I guarantee you will have access to a good job market'," he said.
"In Malaysia, F-Secure cooperates with universities to beef up its talent pool," said Konttinen, adding that the company "still finds it hard to find good people as they are in high demand."
"We hired many top cybersecurity personnel to work with F-Secure in Malaysia, and while many of them have moved to Finland to continue working for us there, others have come back to Malaysia," he said.
'Everyone is a target'
Part of the challenge is in keeping up with cybersecurity criminals. "We need to develop capabilities in artificial intelligence and machine learning - those are key to combating these attackers that use viruses that morph easily and tailor-made for targets.
"We are essentially protecting companies against unique attacks, something unknown. That is why artificial intelligence is the centrepiece of our protection capability," Konttinen said.
The company also sees high-tech industries targeted for their valuable intellectual property, such as manufacturer or pharmaceutical patents, he said. "These cyber criminals don't really care for the information, they just want your money. Everyone is a target."
Moving on to his current strategy, he said: "This year we plan to take a more focused approach to the business. Cyber attacks, for instance, have been growing in volume and complexity, as the attackers become more sophisticated."
"Many businesses are moving online and entering a whole new world, with exposure to cyber risks. I believe this year the greatest risk will come - like last year - from ransomware, with ransomers getting millions of dollars off susceptible companies," Konttinen said.
The Finnish antivirus giant currently has 20 products, five for consumers, and 15 for businesses. Globally, Konttinen said the consumer security market is US$5 billion while business-to-business cybersecurity market is worth US$80 billion.
Security in Malaysia
We moved to the question of why Malaysia? "We set up our Asia hub in Malaysia more than 10 years ago, due to three big drivers. Firstly, we needed to provide 24/7 service to our customers - as our global headquarters is in Helsinki, we wanted another site that was, timezone-wise, different enough from Helsinki that we can really operate round-the-clock."
"Secondly, we wanted to find a place that had a large enough talent pool, with good universities and people with cryptographic capabilities - that we found in Malaysia as well as a few neighbouring countries. Hence, our Kuala Lumpur office employs not just Malaysians, but also other Southeast Asian nationalities," continued Konttinen.
"Thirdly, there was good support from the Malaysian government and the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC). That was the final driver for us to place our Asian hub in Kuala Lumpur," he said.
F-Secure is continuing to work with MDEC. A recent instance is the hosting of the recent Anti-Virus Asia Researchers (AVAR) meeting, which was held in Malaysia late last year, bringing together multiple cybersecurity firms to gather here in Kuala Lumpur.
AVAR initially started out as an association of university researchers, then F-Secure cooperated with the government agency to further raise the profile of cybersecurity particularly in this part of the world. The latest AVAR annual conference in KL discussed how security professionals could ramp up their capabilities to better manage the increased flow of business and private information going online.
MDEC vice president Norhizam Abdul Kadir had told Computerworld Malaysia late last year that, with Malaysia on the cusp of its self-proclaimed 'Year of the Digital Economy' 2017, cyber security concerns is at the forefront as security remains an issue for both foreign and local investors into the country.
The digital economy (which includes financial activities, and eCommerce among others) accounted for 17.8 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) for 2015.
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