Governments have traditionally been very good at collaborating to nab drug traffickers and money launderers, notes Anthony Lim, Principal Consultant, SEAHK at cybersecurity company Fortinet. Why not do the same when catching cybercriminals?

There’s no greater need for international collaboration than in cyber defense, where threats span geographical boundaries. With so much sensitive citizen data on their hands, governments have a big responsibility to secure their networks. But they don’t have to do it alone.

Lim highlights the need for governments to collaborate with industry and other nations. He shares how they can forge alliances to stand strong in the face of mounting cyber threats.

1. Country to country

No country should have to fight cybercriminals alone. Governments can look out for one another and share warnings whenever they see a new trend in cyber threats.

Lim shares a recent case. A few years ago, banks in a Southeast Asian country came under a specific type of cyber-attack. It quickly raised an alert with its neighbouring country, so the financial regulatory authority could start to warn banks to step up on the appropriate defenses.

2. Government to suppliers

Governments need to look outside of their organisation and support the smaller companies they work with. There is a rising trend of hackers attacking the ecosystem, rather than targeting governments directly, says Lim. SMEs and smaller suppliers may not have the cybersecurity budgets, scope, mindfulness or interest that governments have, and so may be in a way easier to try to hack.

Singapore recognises this, and actively conducts cybersecurity awareness events with vendors. The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, in collaboration with some other government departments, has programmes to educate SMEs and make cybersecurity tools and services available to them, notes Lim.

Governments can also think about setting some basic cybersecurity standards and requirements for the vendors they work with. “For example, if a vendor wants to supply to a government tender, they should meet certain minimum criteria so there is harmony across the cybersecurity posture of the ecosystem,” says Lim. This shouldn’t apply only to bigger ministries, but to town councils and other sub-branches of governments as well, he adds.

3. Within an organisation’s network

Collaboration and communication are not just helpful between organisations, but within them as well. Fortinet’s Security Fabric links all of an organisation’s security tools so they can work together to keep threats out.

When one of the tools detects a threat, it immediately alerts the rest of the organisation’s security controls through the IT security network Fabric. They can then reconfigure themselves to guard against the new threat. “You can have ten solutions watching ten different parts of the network, but if they are standalone and uncoordinated, they’re not going to be the most effective,” says Lim.

4. Global partnerships

Finally, global and regional partnerships between industries can make a big difference for cybersecurity. Fortinet’s Cyber Threat Alliance connects companies in a global digital ecosystem so they can share information on cyber threats in near real-time. This helps organisations learn the latest threats, so they can prepare in advance.

Fortinet works closely with INTERPOL’s cybercrime task force to provide threat intelligence. This has helped to expose a group of fraudsters who were cheated victims all over the world of more than US$60 million.

The company also lends its expertise to the World Economic Forum’s Centre for Cybersecurity by helping to fill the global cybersecurity skills gap. It partners with more than 200 training institutes in over 60 countries to boost cybersecurity training.

There are regional government and industry CIO forums that Fortinet is represented in also, to share and exchange ideas and views on cyber security and governance.

In the great cyber war, governments need to bring on as many allies as they can. Collaboration and communication on all levels will help to strengthen their defences, individually and collectively.