Screening background of cybersecurity staff in bid to advise government on cyber resiliency?


National security. Manufacturers of software and equipment are accused by oversea governments of these vendors sharing information or installing undisclosed spyware in their products and sharing it with the government where these products originated from.


The 3 words - National Security and China - have been driving and instilling fears into governments of largely developed countries across the world of late.


Japan has now taken this fear to a higher level. Japan's government has just announced that they will check where a defense contractor's employees studied abroad under stepped-up efforts to keep sensitive information out of foreign hands, bidding companies are required to disclose their ownership stakes and data safeguards, as well as the nationalities and career backgrounds of personnel involved in the assignment if they are awarded the contracts. The aim is to prevent data leaks with defense contractors increasingly at risk of infiltration.


Would this heightened fear creep into those who are in cybersecurity too - both in consulting and software development? 


Most of these software companies involved in developing security products are domiciled in the developed and western world and they engaged thousands of employees of different nationalities. With the fear 'drummed up' of everything Chinese is a threat to the national security of the developing world, it is no surprise that clients led by governments of the developing world might soon insist that the developing team should be 'cleared' of any researchers of Chinese origins for fear that the said researchers might 'plant' undetected bugs in the software illegally without the software developing company knowledge.


If countries or organisations do proceed on this path, it will be a sad day for development and research. It is already projected that there is an existing shortage of experienced security analysts across the world in helping organisations to manage their cyber risks and with the advances in technology and software moving at light speed - whetting the appetite of cyber criminals and hackers alike with the widespread and increase in unprotected attack surface - any such moves will cause irreparable and sustainable damages that could be difficult for the governments to rein in later. 


Or countries can adopt Malaysia's stand where we proclaimed that we are not worried about these spying allegations as we are transparent in our administration and have nothing to hide (refer to the interview with our PM in Tokyo recently when asked whether we should be worried if we are to use Huawei's telecommunication products).

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