Thailand’s military-appointed government approved a draft national cybersecurity plan Monday that calls for offensive online military capabilities — highlighting the fast-growing number of nations developing offensive cyber weapons and units in a volatile region roiled by hacktivism and Chinese maritime territorial claims.
The draft master plan for national defense against cyber threats for 2017-21 was approved by Thailand’s Defense Council at a meeting chaired by the defense minister, Ministry Spokesman Maj. Gen. Kongcheep Tantrawanich said, according to the Bangkok Post.
The spokesman added that the plan is in line with the ministry’s cyber strategy for national defense, approved by the Defense Council on Feb 29.
The master plan envisages a ministry-level cyber center, to be set up next year by the Office of the Defense Permanent Secretary, with the help of the Defense Information and Space Technology Department, the Bangkok Post reported.
Both the defense strategy and the national master plan envisage the establishment of a cyber operations capability and the military’s strategy calls for that capability to be leveraged into a deterrent against cyberattacks on the country.
Thailand was rated the fifth most vulnerable country in Asia by BitDefender last year, largely due to massive prevalence of pirated software, which lacks security updates from the manufacturer and thus tends to be an easier target for hackers and online crooks.
Some commentators have criticized the move, however, saying the cyberattacks the government has faced have mostly been launched from inside the country by politically motivated hacktivists such as the F5 Cyber Army, protesting policies like the government’s plan to build a single national gateway to the internet.
The move to set up offensive capabilities comes of the heels of Chinese cyberattacks last month against several of Thailand’s neighbors as part of its campaign in support of extensive maritime territorial claims in the region. It follows calls last year from senior Thai military commanders.
“Thailand is one of the world’s top 10 targets for cybersecurity attacks and a haven for cyberterrorism,” Lt. Gen. Suttisak Slakcom, a Defense Ministry adviser, told a security conference in Bangkok in October — highlighting what he said was Thailand’s dire need for a national cybersecurity framework and a master plan for cybersecurity strategies and policies.
Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that more than 60 countries, including Thailand and 16 other nations in Asia, had or were developing capabilities for offensive cyberweapons or cyber surveillance.