“We have to take more risks,” declares the Executive Vice President of Thailand’s digital gov agency.

As Thailand 4.0 takes on shape and form, the government is going fully digital – and it needs to be bold and innovative as cyber threats become ever more sophisticated. “For the last 40, 50 years, especially for the digital technologies, we are just at the user end; we bought and used,” noted Dr Adisak Srinakarin at the recent Innovation Labs World summit.

“But at this time, we are at the crossroads. I don’t think Thailand 4.0 is going to happen fully without real research and development.”

In an exclusive interview with GovInsider, Srinakarin shares how the country is innovating to ensure that its burgeoning digital economy will be protected from malicious attacks.

Detecting threats with AI

The government needs “more advanced tools and monitoring systems” that employ artificial intelligence and machine learning. “What we’re more afraid of is the malware,” Srinakarin remarks. “We want the tools or technologies that can help us to detect, or give us some warning as soon as possible.”

Thailand is using AI to monitor network traffic and conduct big data analyses to detect suspicious user behaviour – for instance, two unusual logins with the same credentials, but hundreds of kilometres away. “Our system will detect and start to send the suspicious code for the agent to take a look into,” Srinakarin explains.

Here, the agency is carrying out “emergency readiness” exercises that simulate attacks and test existing cybersecurity systems. “We want to do more realistic exercises. I think we can’t be complacent with the proof of concept from any company,” he points out.

The 4.0 transformation will only be made possible if data can be shared freely and securely across government, Srinakarin notes. “We are focusing on connecting government systems, to make sure that the information will be transferred correctly and in real time.”

Boosting cybersecurity skills

As the government faces greater threats, a major priority has become to build capabilities, particularly in “digital forensics”, says Srinakarin. “How can it be possible for our country to have innovations and utilise big data and advanced technologies if it has no internal strength to understand those technologies and develop some critical parts by itself?” he remarks.

The government is putting together a dedicated cybersecurity team to respond to threats and attacks faster. “We want more software engineers. We’ve got to increase the amount of cyber security experts with experience,” says Srinakarin, adding that the government hopes to train at least 1,500 cybersecurity staff within two years.

He also hopes to build a digital forensics team that is able to investigate and extract information from digital evidence in the aftermath of an attack. “This is also another branch that we have to increase the staff to be able to handle the cybersecurity issues currently and in the future,” he explains.

Even the police are playing a part, with law enforcement officers expanding their focus to include cybersecurity. “Basically we retrained them to be more cybersecurity police,” Srinakarin says.

And the country is actively looking overseas for the right skills to keep its data and systems secure. “We’re actually hiring people from international communities,” he says. “We’re going to have many data centres, those type of things, but we need a lot more people who have the right calibre to help us.”

Thailand 4.0 will see a fully connected and digital government, which will be more efficient and agile. While cyber threats are ever present, “Fortunately, there are some technologies that help us,” Srinakarin concludes. “The time is right for us.”