How can Thailand secure its smart cities?

By Sutisa Jitpakdee

Gigamon discusses how the government can prioritise key areas of protection and respond rapidly to threats.

Nations used to race to be the strongest, but now they race to be the smartest. In the words of Thailand’s Vice President of the Digital Economy Promotion Agency - “what we need is to become the first” - tech capability is top of the list of every ASEAN leader’s inbox.

But innovation is not without risks, and governments need to understand the vulnerabilities of a virtual economy. New networks mean new infrastructure and workforces, and this means a bigger attack surface for hackers.

As Thailand sprints towards its aim of being ASEAN’s IoT tech hub, the Kingdom is learning that when going smart, the smartest thing they can do is stay secure. We spoke to the experts at Gigamon to find out more.

Thailand’s Vision

Thailand entered 2020 in full force. To mark the start of the new decade the country’s Digital Economic Protection Agency inducted 27 cities into the Mastercard Possible global network, designed to align smart technology to address urban issues. The kingdom already boasts three smart cities - Phuket, Sriracha and Bangkok - with the capital ranking 75th out of 102 smart cities worldwide. And smart expansion forms a core pillar of the government’s ‘Thailand 4.0’ initiative in which the country aims to achieve 100 smart cities by 2022.

To fit these ambitious goals, a fresh infrastructure outfit is necessary. Thailand 4.0 includes linking up energy, transport, and other key entities for “digital readiness” and “sensorisation”. New devices and software will be introduced to collect, monitor, and analyse data nation-wide. Existing technologies and systems not necessarily designed with the current cyber-threat landscape in mind will be connected to a vast network of national data, all under the (hopefully watchful) eye of its leaders.

The government is pumping investment into digital start-ups, with DEPA (the Digital Economic Protection Agency) funding THB200 million ($6.2 million) to starts-up and SMEs. These small companies often lack the finances and resources for adequate security measures, prioritising moving fast and winning market share.

Have full visibility – or leave your citizens exposed

A clear picture of your network is a critical foundation for a strong security infrastructure: it allows governments to identify key priority areas for protection, and rapidly respond to threats.

Gigamon specialises in network visibility, When this network is nationwide, huge volumes of information moving between different endpoints create a vast attack surface, vulnerable to blindspots and cybercriminals.

Visibility during times of transition is at the core of monitoring and analytics expert Gigamon’s business. For organisations moving to agile, and governments moving to smart infrastructure, their solutions provide real-time monitoring, and analysis to meet their new (virtual) reality.

Their first tip for leaders, from Shane Buckley, Gigamon President and Chief Operating Officer, is to “create a championship culture from top to bottom”. Whether CEOs or government officials, those at the top need to demonstrate a data driven culture, and show they have their eyes open, and on their network.

Other key advice is to “see everything that goes on in your networks, all the time”. When IoT produces too much data to handle, clear visibility is as important as technical skills, as what you can’t see, you can’t protect.

Gigamon identified Thailand’s ‘complex network challenges’ as a key landscape for visibility solutions. Through a series of partnerships, they’ve been an active part of Thailand’s digital journey since shortly after the launch of the nation’s ‘Digital Thailand’ plan four years ago.

Keeping your eyes open to risk

For the Thai government, digital defence is as critical as digital innovation. A series of cybersecurity laws released last year granted public sector leaders the power to track, monitor, and access digital data if it deems that ‘cyber threats’ are damaging to the critical digital infrastructure.

This January, the newly appointed National Cybersecurity Committee, chaired by the Prime Minister, held their first meeting to map out guidelines for the protection of critical national infrastructure.

As FinTech shapes the future of finance, the Electronic Transactions Development Agency is stepping up their e-KYC efforts to meet the digital payments revolution. In a bid to better understand their evolving network public sector agencies are upping surveillance.

In exchange, the Government Development Agency has publicly committed to making government digital services and data more accessible to citizens, providing them with a tool “to scrutinise the government with only their fingertips”. Being visible, on all fronts, is a key part of being protected.

This strong cyber infrastructure will pave the way for further innovation. And as Gigamon CEO Paul Hopper states, “visibility is vital to the success of any digital transformation initiative”. His words come at a crucial tipping point in the country’s journey to being a Smart City, and global leader. All eyes will be on this young economy to see its next steps. Let’s hope the Thai government’s eyes are on its digital assets.

This article is by Sutisa Jitpakdee, Regional Sales Director of Thailand, Gigamon