Ensuring Cybersecurity in Today’s Growing Sharing Economy

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Improving telecom infrastructures, broader data services and an increasingly tech-savvy population make the Philippines one of the most robust mobile markets in Asia. The country’s digital ecosystem will continue to expand, thanks to a bullish smartphone market, already the fastest-growing market in Southeast Asia and expected to continue growing with the influx of competitively priced devices.

Mobile penetration in the Philippines is growing not just in urban areas but in the rural sectors as well.  The social media and texting capital of the world has a digitally engaged market characterized mostly by young and literate users. Most of these users access the digital space through mobile devices.

As access to a wider range of mobile applications becomes easier, the shift to digital for completing tasks and activities such as paying bills, shopping, getting a ride home or securing a place to stay for a short trip will continue to gather steam. This, in turn, will further fuel the sharing economy that is reshaping the market landscape and displacing traditional practices and services.

Sharing apps

The sharing economy will continue gaining traction in the Asia Pacific, which is home to more than half of the world’s mobile subscribers. Mobile app revenue in Asia alone is forecast by GSMA Intelligence to hit US$57.5 billion by 2020.

In the Philippines, the rising number of mobile money or banking apps mirrors the huge market for such products and the growing preference for fast, efficient and convenient services. The rapid rise in popularity of vehicle-sharing apps such as Uber, Grab, Wunder and even Angkas, GPS apps such as Waze and accommodations platform Airbnb reflects the widening footprint of the sharing economy.  

Airbnb, for example, regards the Philippines as its fastest-growing market in the ASEAN region, with Filipino travelers accounting for the bulk of users. In 2015 alone, the number of tourists that used the platform to find accommodation in the Philippines rose by 300 percent year-on-year.

Hidden threats amid promise of benefits

The promise of convenient and easy access to a wealth of services will continue to lure more mobile users to the sharing economy. In the Philippines, the strongest draw for sharing apps will be the desire to escape the alternative: long lines at the bank, many hours in traffic and other similar scenarios.  

Increasing reliance on apps, however, has hidden perils. By registering with sharing apps, which require giving out personal information, users allow access to data that should otherwise be considered private and confidential. The huge amount of personal data in sharing apps makes them a treasure trove for cybercriminals who can paralyze services or unleash distributed denial-of-service (DDos) attacks to grab user data for their own purposes.  

When attacked by DDoS, enterprises suffer a decline in web traffic and costly remediation work, which combined translate to revenue losses. Users of the site might also think of the organization as unreliable, resulting in loss of trust.

Closer to home, Filipinos became victims of what is considered one of the biggest cybercrimes in history last year. The “Comeleak” involved a group of hackers gaining access to the Comelec website. The breach exposed the personal data of close to 80 million Filipinos. With the data accessible over the internet, the threat of identity theft still looms long after the breach has been fixed.

Security is vital

As more users join the sharing economy and surrender personal data, including credit card and password information, security becomes all the more crucial. This raises the need for businesses to strengthen their organization’s security protocol to prevent breaches and other attacks.

Despite the growing realization among businesses about the importance of cybersecurity, many enterprises still prefer putting money in new investments to improving the company security framework, pushing proactive cybersecurity strategies to the backburner and not realizing it is a necessary investment and certainly more cost-efficient long-term than having to deal with the consequences of a DDoS attack. A recent report by Ponemon on APAC app security reveals only 17 percent of IT security budget goes to app security.

Securing the enterprise

The proactive cybersecurity measures enterprises need to put in place should include security monitoring and observations. Organizations must be able to prioritize what needs protection and ensure their IT programs are capable of prompt and effective breach identification.  

An integrated security framework must be established to help enterprises ensure business agility, data encryption and risk management.  Proactive digital hygiene measures such as regular patches must also be in place.

Cybersecurity infrastructures in enterprises must likewise enable all business units and functions to sustain on-going conversations. This way, critical security vulnerabilities can be easily identified and a more robust cybersecurity strategy can be implemented.