Guiding Asia’s SMEs Safely Through the Modern Security Landscape

Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific, Sailpoint

In today’s dynamic remote work landscape in Asia, organisations face increasing challenges. With a 3.55x rise in remote work opportunities in Singapore and 58% of APAC organisations turning to non-employees for flexibility, the threat surface for businesses is expanding. This region is particularly vulnerable to cybercrime.

While countries in Asia are bolstering their national cybersecurity defences, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) often lack the tech expertise and resources to protect themselves. In Singapore, SMEs are prime targets for ransomware attacks, driven by their valuable intellectual property and the potential financial and regulatory risks of data breaches.

As AI becomes more accessible and advanced, cyber attackers are poised to use it for more complex and sophisticated threats, such as AI-enabled deepfakes to impersonate C-suite executives. Modern businesses with rapid digital adoption must ensure their digital defenses are robust. The silver lining is that AI, while amplifying threats, also holds the potential to mitigate them.

CIO World Asia spoke with Chern-Yue Boey, Senior Vice President, Asia-Pacific, SailPoint about how Asia’s SMEs can leverage AI to navigate today’s security landmines.

Unveiling the Security Imperatives for Contemporary Enterprises in APAC

In today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, modern enterprises, particularly in the Asia Pacific region, face unique security challenges. The rise of remote and hybrid work, coupled with the increasing use of non-employees, has expanded the threat surface, leading to complex identity management issues. Rushed integration of non-employees can result in loose identity management processes and insufficiently controlled access, potentially leading to insider threats. Remote work exacerbates these risks, often granting excessive and inappropriate access.

Furthermore, digital transformation remains a top priority for businesses, with increased cloud adoption and the integration of non-human entities like RPA, robots, and IoT systems. These developments have significantly increased the number of digital identities that need management. IoT devices, in particular, introduce new threat vectors due to their weak credential controls.

As data breaches are frequently linked to compromised identities, the focus is shifting from device-centric security to identity-focused solutions. Modern enterprises require comprehensive identity security solutions to gain complete visibility into all user types, including employees, non-employees, and non-human identities. Manual management of this increasing identity complexity is no longer feasible, making robust identity security imperative.

Navigating Challenges in Establishing Essential Defences

In an ever-evolving threat landscape, many enterprises struggle to keep their security defences up to date. Some mistakenly believe their existing security measures suffice, failing to adapt to emerging cybersecurity trends and threats. SMEs, in particular, face budget and expertise limitations when it comes to digitalization for competitiveness. Approximately 25% of SMEs identify technological process development, such as automation, as a major challenge.

The increasing use of advanced technologies by cyber attackers, like AI-assisted attacks, compounds these risks. Organisations not only contend with a surge in cyber threats but also grapple with their growing complexity and stealthiness.

Adding to these security challenges are legacy identity management solutions, originally designed for pre-pandemic, non-distributed, on-premises operations. These solutions struggle to provide full visibility across modern IT environments, including networks and cloud setups, and often falter in managing large volumes of identities due to manual access granting processes. This dilemma forces businesses to choose between pursuing digital transformation and potentially leaving their IT operations vulnerable or prioritising IT ecosystem security at the expense of digital ambitions.

The  report, “The Horizons of Identity,” highlights that 45% of companies experience fragmented and highly manual identity management, with limited adoption within the organisation. To address these challenges, companies should consider implementing an identity program focused on continuous improvement and vigilance, encompassing technology, process enhancements, people controls, and risk management.

Ultimately, companies of all sizes and industries must view identity management as a catalyst for innovation and security rather than a mere compliance requirement. By doing so, they can build more robust security defences and leverage identity security as a pivotal control point to reduce cybersecurity risks while delivering business value.

How Businesses Can Leverage AI For Good

As AI becomes a tool of choice for cyber attackers in launching increasingly sophisticated threats, the silver lining is that AI can be a powerful ally for businesses in proactively addressing identity-related threats. In a landscape where the sheer volume of daily threats can overwhelm error-prone manual processes, transitioning to AI-based identity security solutions presents an opportunity for businesses to enhance efficiency, accuracy, and resource allocation while bolstering their defences.

By embracing AI-driven identity security, businesses can benefit from continuous monitoring, precision, and resource efficiency through automated identity management. This approach empowers organisations to automate the detection, management, and control of user access, encompassing employees, non-employees, and non-human identities across diverse environments. It enables automated adjustments and terminations of access based on changes in user attributes or location and triggers remediation actions when suspicious activity arises.

These AI-powered capabilities are particularly valuable for modern enterprises relying on temporary external labour and embracing remote work arrangements. The flexibility of these modern identity management solutions extends to cloud, SaaS, and hybrid environments, offering end-to-end visibility, control, and protection across the entirety of an organisation’s modern IT ecosystem.

An autonomous identity solution streamlines the management of access rights, simplifying onboarding and offboarding processes for employees, regardless of whether they are joining, changing roles, or leaving the company. Additionally, AI-based identity solutions enable enterprises to enforce precise access controls and fine-grained entitlements, reducing the risks of data breaches, compliance violations, and information theft. This, in turn, allows businesses to prioritise innovation and collaboration while maintaining robust security.

How CIOs Can Leverage on AI

As CIOs grapple with increasingly constrained budgets in the face of evolving cyber threats, harnessing AI for identity security offers a dual benefit. It enhances detection and threat mitigation capabilities while concurrently generating tangible business value. By implementing AI-driven identity solutions, organisations can expedite the detection and response to security threats by 40%, significantly reducing the volume of manually processed tickets by up to 85%. This efficiency gain provides CIOs with the valuable resource of time, enabling them to focus on innovation. Additionally, automated identity management practices can yield cost savings of nearly threefold in compliance expenses.

In conclusion, as we navigate the intricate terrain of modern cybersecurity, it is evident that businesses, particularly SMEs, must grapple with evolving threats, budget constraints, and the imperative to stay competitive. The dynamic landscape of remote work, the integration of non-employees, and the proliferation of advanced technologies underscore the need for robust identity security solutions. 

Embracing AI-driven identity security not only empowers organisations to detect and respond to threats swiftly but also yields significant efficiency gains, reducing manual processes and compliance costs. With the potential of AI to both amplify threats and mitigate them, businesses stand at a critical juncture. By prioritising identity management as a catalyst for innovation and security, they can navigate the modern security landscape with resilience, delivering business value while safeguarding their digital future.