Consumer-centric future is here but risks remain: Kaspersky

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A consumer-centric future — where goods and services are produced and delivered according to an individual’s personal preferences — is happening now, although risks associated with this trend remain.

Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky said this trend is happening because of “Industry 4.0” or the “digitalization of industries” and is aided by current technologies including Internet of Things and 5G, among others.

Stephan Neumeier, Kaspersky managing director for Asia Pacific, said this customer-centric trend “empowers consumers more” and that customized products “get delivered much faster than it used to be.”

To simplify, Neumeier said customer can now go online and order customized running shoes. Aside from the usual parameters such as foot size and color, customers can request manufacturers to add names on the shoes, add personal designs, personal logos, etc.

Manufacturers can then turn to their automated systems to create the customized product, and in a matter of days, deliver it to the customer’s doorsteps.

“So, from a security point of view, almost all are automated and a lot of things can happen,” Neumeier said, adding that disruptions, delays, product changes, are possible. 

While ordering these types of consumer products may not be life-threatening should errors occur, the scenario is different, if say medicines — instead of shoes — are “customized” and ordered.

“However, if the product is in medicine (following the same process), then the changes are more serious (changing the ingredients, changing the product, delaying the delivery, etc) this particular scenario is life-threatening,” the executive said.

He noted that a customer-centric trend will involve giving out personal data, which if not secured, can be exploited and can be vulnerable to “attacks.”

An individual’s personal data, location, etc. can all be “exploited,” as many individuals now use ride hailing apps, streaming video, audio services, among others.

Companies across the Asia Pacific are now being compelled to shift to “Industry 4.0” and at the same time make sure that a security system is in place to protect massive amounts of consumer data.

“Asia Pacific’s level of digitalization is still in its early stages until the pandemic forced everyone to reconsider their operational practices. Contrary to popular belief that Industry 4.0 is a high-level topic confined in the four corners of a boardroom, this revolution has the consumer at its core. This, alongside breakthroughs like Big Data, IoT, 5G, are here to create a customized future,” Neumeier said.

In a report, Kaspersky said industrial automation systems in Asia and Africa are “the least secure globally during the first six months of 2020.”

Asian regions occupy four out of the top five positions in the regional rankings based on the percentage of Industrial Control Systems computers which were almost infected in the first half of the year. Southeast Asia recorded the highest percentages, in terms of malicious activities and Internet threats, Kaspersky said.

To protect the IT environment from malicious attacks, Kaspersky recommended that basic cybersecurity hygiene training remains important, as many targeted attacks start with phishing or other social engineering techniques. One way to go about the training is to conduct a simulated phishing attack to ensure that they know how to distinguish phishing emails.

It also pays that companies put in place the latest threat intelligence applications, as well as endpoint level detection, investigation and timely remediation of incidents.

However, there are successful Industry 4.0 applications that Kaspersky has noted including a project in Singapore that the company was involved in together with Siemens.

The project was for the Singapore Aquaculture Technologies’ first smart floating fish farm. A first in Singapore and is expected to produce 350 tons (350,000kg) of fish annually, the S$4 million aquaculture facility is set to cater to the needs of Singaporeans for quality fish while also addressing the challenges posed by climate change that have resulted in declining fish populations. 

“Consumers now are concerned about the origin of their food, the type of environment it is from, and the harvesting processes done before it arrived at their dinner table. With climate change and environmental challenges, food production should now be both ethical and sustainable. This is possible when we use available technologies right,” said Raimund Klein, EVP for Southeast Asia at Siemens Digital Industries.

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