Emilie Philippe leads our Cyber & Security group at La French Tech Singapore, and shares her own take on the massive need for stronger cybersecurity protocol brought on by the challenges of Covid19.
Hi Emilie, so what do you do and what brought you to Asia ?
My Singaporean adventure began in 2013 when my husband was posted as a Police Attaché from Libya to Singapore. We came with our children–the little one was only 22 days old. It was a change, but we were happy to be together in a new country to discover our Asian family roots. My father-in-law is actually born in Saigon.
Between 2003 and 2016, I worked with BNP Paribas within different roles and places. I started in IT security in Paris then moved to Legal in the Caribbean, Risk Credits in Marseille, and then back to Paris in Compliance (anti money-laundering, counter terrorism financing, head of investigations).
I carried on to work in the Compliance team when I came to Singapore. In June 2016, UBS poached me for a role of Regional Head of AML after the MAS inspection to roll out the remediation plan and I joined them.
Working in a multicultural environment has given me great opportunities and insights to learn more about how I can challenge the scope of my work and enhance my agility. The citystate is not only the place to be, but it’s the place to work.
After 15 years in the comfort of banking, legal and compliance, I needed a change. I decided to discover a new sector, I dive head first into the cyber and security startup ecosystem, and joined Webdrone. It aligned very well with my adventurous mindset and I considered it not a risk, but a way to propel me forward.
After one year, what are your afterthoughts now that you’re in the startup world?
I place trust in life and magic of human encounters, even more so since I met my husband. It was in a very unlikely place–a police station, and he was the Chief of Police!
During the French Tech Tour in 2018, a friend of mine met the co-founders of Webdrone and shared with me how their company’s philosophy matches with my profile.
Webdrone’s philosophy is a human adventure whose mission is to model the human know-how of an expert in cybercrime, in order to promote a decision tool for companies and government.
As a proactive and enthusiastic woman, I went to Paris and met them in Dijon and we got along right off the bat (not because I am a Burgundy wine lover, but it helped). After an hour of discussion, it was obvious that I wanted to help them expand to Asia, develop the business, and support them through the innovation of new investigations features. So I embarked on their cybercrime fighting journey as Board member and Managing Director for Asia Pacific.
My take-off from the corporate to the startup world was instantaneous, and Ice71, an Innovation Cyber-security hub, welcomed us in their incubator program. In this past year, I met incredible people and built strong connections through tech communities, such as French Tech, Ice71, FCCS, AISP, CNCCEF.
I enjoy meeting new people, learning and sharing my knowledge so the integration into this ecosystem was quick and natural. Furthermore, I had been based in Singapore for 5 years already and I managed teams across Asia (eg. 50 people in UBS, 35 internal staff + 15 consultants) so I was familiar with local business practices and some intercultural secrets. After a few years here, you integrate and familiarize with the work culture.
I feel more productive because I have to set up and build the business from scratch, so I’ll organize my agenda and stay focus on the targets. In addition, everyone likes what we’re working on and are curious to understand more about our online investigations solution and find synergies to tackle cybercrime together to protect their clients and businesses. Having said that, there is big interest, and we increased our business portfolio with new missions in Asia and we have interesting deals in the pipe.
Why do we need to fight cyber criminality in business?
Today, you can find everything and anything on the web: guns, drugs, fake medicines, illegal use of B2B software, untrusted individual or company profiles, environmental crimes, counterfeiting of food, sport accessories or luxury goods.
All these products could be counterfeit, negatively impacting the public and security of your environment. Companies should protect their reputation and customers to feel safe in the world (including the Internet world) and we are lucky to promote tech for good.
1-Medicine trafficking is estimated at USD 200 billion worldwide. It is at minimum 20% of the whole Pharma market. I’ll let you imagine the consequences on health. The OECD report published in January shared some figures about heavy consequences on the people that were killed due to fake medicine: “Estimates show that between 72,000 and 169,000 children may die from pneumonia every year after receiving counterfeit drugs and that fake anti-malarial medication might be responsible for an additional 116,000 deaths.”
2- Even F&B food is now being faked, either labelled as a certain brand that did not come from that manufacturer, or more insidiously, the content of the food might not be what it is claimed to be. The bottles of Champagne, wines and spirit could be refueled with counterfeit alcohol and then sold online at a low price.
How are virtual drones prepped and trained for online crime investigations?
Things move fast on the Internet; online criminal activity increased with the circuit breaker and more than ever, the need to automate online investigations is key for teams (IT, Security, IP Brand Protection, Compliance) to work efficiently and faster. To fight against cybercrime, it is not enough to take down online posts, but the entire illicit network should be stopped. It is the heart of Webdrone. Our e-drones detect the counterfeit products and trace the evidence to find the roots of the traffic where people are involved. Based on this investigation methodology, our technology has been rewarded by the Anti-Counterfeiting Global Award, and the Security Brand & consumers protection award (2018).
Our virtual drones solutions, called e-drones, support our clients by automating online investigations to protect their business and reputation. The e-drones collect the data across the whole web (clear,deep,dark) to detect information and in any language.
They act and think as super cyber investigators online, monitoring the web to detect potential weak signals. Within the team, we have several profiles who worked in law enforcement for decades and have trained them to find evidence. The e-drones do it extremely fast and they can crawl through a huge volume of data to provide a customized operational report on the target (e.g. product, individual, etc.). Then, the client’s team can focus on his key tasks and not lose time anymore with data collection. Timing is key to the success of an investigation online, because evidence can disappear quickly.
The story began with the Pareto principle, which is also known as the 80/20 rule. In law enforcement, cyber investigators took 80% of their investigation time to collect the data manually; the idea was to swap this percentage to 20% of the time for the collection and devote 80% of the time on human analysis.
In that respect, it allows job valuation. For instance, we reduced the time of investigations for the detection of certain product illicit trades from 450 man-days to 10 man-days, or for due diligence checks from 60 minutes to 4.
What is the new normal security global environment?
During the COVD-19 period, online activity has particularly increased. Companies understand that they have to move fast in the digital realm and accelerate their own technology to provide high-quality services and to ensure strong protection of their data and reputation.
In parallel, Covid19 has sharpened certain forms of cybercrime, in particular software piracy and online fraud. There is more vulnerability when employees work remotely. The security of the company and its information system are at the heart of the engine.
Previously, mobility and teleworking were allowed only for certain functions or as part of a degraded mode in a business continuity plan (BCP). Now they have to rethink their methods to improve the security of their information systems; it is a strategic challenge for the future.
The objective is to fight against all forms of illicit exchanges on the Internet and to bring evidence to the company, allowing it to make decisions and actions. There is no denying that the needs of online security is not a new topic. Ever since the creation of the Internet, these red flags have been overlooked by some users who thought they were protected, but cybersecurity is everybody’s business. There can only be a change if leaders are convinced that strategies need to be deeply reviewed. The impetus must come from both to develop actions and not the other way around. Decision-makers must take responsibility for building a safer future.
Digitalization was already advanced to be fair, but what the pandemic has highlighted is the vital importance of having a good cybersecurity strategy. Some companies have realised they could be impacted. These risks, which were previously acceptable, became critical. Recently, we are increasingly requested to aid in both internal and external frauds. For us, there is an increase of 30% in social profiling (detect the digital footprints of an individual) and a strong increase of 300% in anti-piracy. The web has no borders, so there is a need to check the profile and the reputation of the people with whom we deal digitally.
How dare you to be a woman in cybersecurity?
For me, it’s not a question of gender. I am a strong believer in collaborative intelligence and the “Medici Effect.” We can do bigger things if we are different people from different cultures with different backgrounds around the table. I love challenges and accept them to enhance my skills. Here’s a quote to mull on: “they didn’t know it was impossible, so they did it,” by Mark Twain.
How do you bring more diversity to this space?
Well, firstly, I am a woman in the cybersecurity ecosystem 😉🙋. I also co-created the cybersecurity chapter for the French Tech here in Singapore to help drive awareness and resource sharing for women in this space. Several ladies attend our events and I am sure you will read their interviews soon! Together we can achieve more, so join us on our WhatsApp group!