(Federal Hotel - Kuala Lumpur, Saturday): As of today, there is no mechanism in Malaysia to detect, identify, characterize and defend against infrastructure attack, especially cyber attacks in an Information Warfare (IW), which has been defined as "conflict in which information or information technology is the weapon, target, objective, or the method".
We need to give this serious and urgent attention, as only last month, a governmental corporation which plays a crucial role in our national economy was the target of a large-scale virus attack which if it had not been neutralised in the nick of time, would have crippled its national and world-wide operations, destroying the tens of thousands of files in its network of thousands of computers.
I raised this issue in Parliament on November 27 during the debate on the 1998 budgetary allocations for the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, but this was completely beyond the depth of the Deputy Minister for Science, Technology and Environment, Datuk Abdul Bakar Daud, who clearly did not understand what I was talking about - dismissing them as sheer nonsense.
This led to a heated exchange between us where I was provoked to call him a "digital illiterate".
What was his response? Abu Bakar Daud’s riposte was that his children and grand-children were more computer-savvy than me
I never regarded myself as any IT expert, but as one who is prepared to learn in a field which is completely new to me. The tragedy from Abu Bakar Daud's response was that he did not seem to realise that it was he who is the Deputy Minister for Science, Technology and Environment and not his children or grandchildren! I sometimes despair when raising IT issues in Parliament.
I had raised this issue of the first-known large-scale information attack in Malaysia to the attention of the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and although he had referred it to the relevant authorities with expertise in this field, I am not satisfied that the government has taken this virus attack seriously.
I call on the government to establish a Royal Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, which should be a joint government and private sector Commission, to develop a national strategyto protect the critical infrastructures of the the country from a spectrum of threats and attacks as well as assuring their continued operation.
There are at least eight critical infrastructures which can be identified, namely the electric power system, gas and oil (storage and transportation), telecommunications, banking and finance, transportation, water supply systems, emergency services (including medical, police, fire and rescue) and continuity of government services .
Threats to these infrastructures fall into two categories: physical threats to tangible property ("physical threats") and "cyber threats", i.e. threats of electronic, radio-frequency, or computer-based attacks on the information or communications components that control critical infrastructures.
I would pursue in the next Parliament meeting scheduled in March the important issue of the government ensuring that the critical infrastructures in the country are protected from cyber-threats and attacks?
For over a decade, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has a favourite "Guru" advising him on strategy, information technology revolution and globalisation - Kenichi Ohmae, who was for 23 years a partner in McKinsey & Co., the world-famous management consulting firm. Ohmae is known throughout the world as "Mr. Strategy" and among his best known books are The Borderless World and The End of the Nation State.
The borderless world is one of the favourite topics of Mahathir in his promotion of the Multimedia Super Corridor for Malaysia to leapfrog into the information society and be in the forefront of Information Revolution in the new millennium.
However, it would appear that Mahathir had not fully learnt from his Guru, Kenichi Ohmae in order to minimise the ravages of the current currency crisis in Asia.
In a recent article in Asiaweek, Ohmae asked: "Has Asia become wiser because of the currency crisis?"
This is his answer: "Perhaps not. The region still has not learned the lesson that I presented in The Borderless World: the market disciplines the government, not the other way around."
Ohmae wrote: "Unfortunately, the reaction of some Asian countries has been to talk about closing up and becoming more protectionist. Emphasizing a more domestically oriented economy would not be a solution. Any developing sentiment in ASEAN against foreigners, especially the West, is ugly. Asean is already part of the global economy. Asia is entitled to and able to achieve more."
I will end with one more quotation from Ohmae’s Asiaweek article on "1997: Year of Transition":
"Asia has a bright future, as I have emphasized throughout this article. There are plenty of capital and human resources in the region, despite the fact that we lost some of them in 1997. Our technology is excellent, especially in the digital informaiton area, and production know-how is second to none.
"As we move from the Industrial Society into what I call the ‘Digital Network Society’, Asia will flourish. Singapore through its Singapore One project and Malaysia in its Multimedia Super Corridor are competing to be the world leaders in information technology. Just as the United States was the beneficiary of the Industrial Revolution, Asia will be the beneficiary of the Information Revolution. Many Asian leaders feel that they have nothing to lose as they move aggressively into the information revolution. Not only do they have nothing to lose, they have no where else to go."