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Up to 70% of SMEs in Vietnam operate outside the digital economy

The Saigon Times

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HCMC – Up to 70% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Vietnam are operating outside the digital economy and only around 20% are tentatively exploring it, Chairman of the Vietnam Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (VINASME) Nguyen Van Than said at a recent event on “Cybersecurity Awareness for SMEs in Vietnam”.

The event drew key stakeholders from Vietnam and Australia to share experiences and findings from studies on cybersecurity awareness among businesses in both countries. The organizers also announced an upcoming survey to assess the cybersecurity readiness of Vietnamese businesses.

The discussion helped identify the current gap in information security capacity, highlighting the need for skills development, workforce preparation and transformation to support Vietnam in embracing information security.

Experts at the event suggested that SMEs across Vietnam should strive to build better cybersecurity infrastructure, capabilities and culture.

According to Than, the understanding of and action toward the digital economy are still relatively slow, uneven and inconsistent among businesses. “Thus, it’s imperative and urgent to popularize the idea of the digital economy and support Vietnamese businesses on their way to embrace it. This is a vital task,” he said.

He also emphasized that cybersecurity awareness is an aspect of operating the digital economy. “I highly value the topic of today’s discussion as the experts have foreseen a downside of Industry 4.0, namely cyber risks for businesses.”

Presenting a 2021 review and 2022 forecast of the cybersecurity landscape in Vietnam, director of the Institute of Information Security Technology under the Vietnam Information Security Association and vice president of BKAV Ngo Tuan Anh revealed that Vietnam recorded about 70.7 million computer virus infections in 2021.

He considered this a red alert for the state of cybersecurity in Vietnam, adding that the damage Vietnamese computer users suffered due to viruses continued to be very high, reaching VND24.4 trillion (around US$1.06 billion) last year.

“The use of computers and smart devices in Vietnam has increased dramatically due to Covid-19, creating an ideal environment for computer viruses to break out and spread rapidly,” he said. He also pointed out that supply chain attacks have become a global trend.

“Most of the attacks last year were on a large scale and targeted globally-known organizations and businesses,” Tuan Anh said.

Sharing experiences from Australia, RMIT Senior Lecturer Dr Pham Cong Hiep drew on findings from the “2021 State of Cyber Fitness in Australian Small Businesses” whitepaper, of which RMIT University was a co-author.

The study shows that the cybersecurity readiness of Australian SMEs is not very high despite their rapid digitization during the pandemic.

Only 26% of businesses felt they had done enough to keep their business safe from cybersecurity incidents, while 33% felt they hadn’t. Notably, 77% of respondents felt directly responsible for cyber risks.

“An understanding of the factors affecting cybersecurity readiness is crucial to devise appropriate solutions for businesses to improve the current low level of cyber fitness among most SMEs,” Dr Hiep said.

Therefore, the upcoming nationwide survey conducted by RMIT University, VNISA and VINASME will look at cyber risks, technology adaptation, cybersecurity awareness, skills to prevent and confront cyber threats, and funding for cybersecurity activities.

The survey is expected to contribute toward building better cybersecurity infrastructure, capabilities, and culture in the SME community.

At the event, the RMIT Center for Cyber Security Research and Innovation also officially announced the establishment of its Vietnam Hub, led by Dr Pham Cong Hiep.

Aiming to promote a truly multidisciplinary approach to the organizational, human and technical aspects of cybersecurity, the Hub will offer many opportunities for RMIT and local organizations to collaborate on research projects and corporate training, as well as deliver joint events and workshops with cyber experts across Australia and Vietnam.

The event “Cybersecurity Awareness for SMEs in Vietnam” was held by RMIT University and the Vietnam Information Security Association, together with the Vietnam Association of Small and Medium Enterprises.

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