For over 30 years, the mission of Trend Micro is to make the world safe by providing topnotch products and services to safeguard digital security. One of their most recent developments, “Dr. Message”, an anti-scam chatbot that has won the first prize in the U.S.-Taiwan Tech Challenge 2020, and received recognition by the Digital Minister Audrey Tang.
As one of our honorable industry leaders in the 2019 Global Science & Technology Leaders Forum, we invited two expert representatives of Trend Micro, Mr. Wei-Gan Hung, the General Manager of Taiwan & Hong Kong Business Unit, and Mr. Yen-Po Liu, the Project Leader of “Dr. Message”, to talk about the company’s role in supporting Taiwan’s COVID-19 prevention effort. Full interview below:
Bob Hung serves as Trend Micro’s General Manager of Taiwan & Hong Kong Business Unit. He leads the sales and marketing, technique support, and consultation team providing information security solutions. As an expert in information security field, he devotes his expertise in the prevention of cyberattacks, and help with the development of the local community to fulfill the CSR for Trend Micro.
In Taiwan, COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on many industries across different disciplines. What are the policies that Trend Micro implemented to minimize the impact?
Advance Preparation for Telecommuting
When the epidemic broke out, we started the preparation of remote work. Compared to other companies, our operation faced lesser impact while working from home since the main products of Trend Micro are software. It took us around two weeks to finalize the preparation work for telecommuting, and we began to work from home at the beginning of February.
However, one of the biggest challenges of telecommuting is information security. Trend Micro sets a strict SOP which our employees should follow. Facing the peak of the epidemic in Taiwan in February, the entire company worked remotely and conducted weekly meetings with team leads and executives to sustain the company’s operation and productivity.
With the comprehensive preparation work in advance, we were able to implement telecommuting almost immediately to maximize the efficiency. As the outbreak in Taiwan has slowed recently, employees have returned to the office. However, the employees were asked to follow the policy of Ministry of Health and Welfare, such as maintaining social distance.
Thinking of Post-Covid-19, what are the strategies to sustain your company's mission and operation?
Learn from the Experience, Rethink and Rearrange
Due to the impact of the epidemic, we have been reconsidering the possibility of long-term telecommuting and remote work model. Nevertheless, with our experience this time, we realized that online meetings are definitely less effective than on-site ones. In addition, we are also considering the possible office layout renovation to increase the flexibility to practice safe social distance in case similar situation happens again.
Apart from the office layout, the transition of the infrastructure of a company is a big challenge while trying to meet the demand of telecommuting, such as moving the internal database to the cloud.
With rapid technological development, information security has become a top priority for international community. What role does “technology” play in personal data protection and information security?
Technology definitely plays a key role when it comes to personal data and information security. In the perspective of the industry, it is possible to reach the goal with the new technology and make the operation more efficient. However, after the impact of the pandemic, there will be more and more work to be performed virtually, which might increase the risk of the information security.
The Transition from Traditional to Digital
Speaking of information security, telecommuting is one of the ways to break the traditional work model. Employees from various departments are able to access the internal network from different locations around the world, which will make the protection of information security more vital and challenging.
In addition to the protection of the hardware equipment, maintaining the “dataflow” is equally critical. With new ways of working in modern society, companies are encouraged to rethink how to move the operation and infrastructure to the cloud with the information security provided. The cloud is considered to be more efficient, low-cost, and safe.
Paul Liu is currently the Senior Manager of Global Consumer Market Development and Marketing at Trend Micro. He is also the project lead of “Dr. Message”, Trend Micro's fake message detection technology. Prior to Trend Micro, he served in Microsoft Taiwan, Samsung Electronics and KKBOX, and has extensive experience in marketing, development, and service.
How can the public protect their personal data in the era of information explosion?
Nowadays, with the increased use of mobile devices, cell phones become indispensable in people’s life. However, most of the people are not aware of the potential viruses on mobile devices. Thus, to secure the privacy of personal data, it is recommended to install anti-virus software on phones. Also, people should not expose personal information on social media or any messaging platform. In terms of anti-fraud, we always encourage people to conduct transactions through an open trading platform instead of making any transactions via social media or LINE account privately.
Trend Micro has launched “Dr. Message”, what is your expectation for this chatbot in bringing the benefits to our society amid the outbreak and in general?
There are two popular fraud methods in Taiwan. One is to hack your account information, and the other is to defraud money and personal information.
Account Information Hacks
The fraud groups normally post recruitment information on the internet, luring people to take the bait. People tend to take the offer because it seems simple and easy, and the fraud group will be able to collect your account information.
Defraud Money and Personal Information
Scammers often trick the public to make a transaction and obtain their money and account information. Personal data would then be transmitted to two different fraud organizations. To cope with the new methods of fraud, “Dr. Message” collaborates with both public sectors and NGOs to collect useful data to enhance fraud detection. Our goal is to better understand the inner working of fraud organization’s rationale so as to improve our app, and help the public from being scammed.
There are some similar apps and service platforms out there, what are the special features of “Dr. Message” compared to others?
Existing chatbots services that fight against fake news are their partners. However, “Dr. Message” has four main characteristics:
A Wide Range of Information Detection
Compared with other chatbots, “Dr. Message” can identify not only fake news and information but the links to fraudulent websites, malicious website, fake social media accounts, phishing websites, and cyber viruses.
In addition to the built-in database, “Dr. Message” also cooperates with several public sectors to expand the diversity and increase the accuracy of the service. These sectors include the Criminal Investigation Bureau, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Taiwan Centers for Disease Control and Taiwan Food and Drug Administration. We signed a memorandum of cooperation with CIB in hope of providing people with extra protection to reduce the chances of fraud.
▲Sharing database with both public and private sectors
Online Reporting Mechanism
The reporting mechanism allows the public to inspect and question “Dr. Message”. If people have doubts about the results provided by “Dr. Message”, they can report back so that the operation team can quickly correct and update the database. If an individual was a former victim to fraud before Dr. Message’s detections, he or she can also report back to the team in case more people become victims.
Support Group Identification
Aside from forwarding messages to “Dr. Message”, users can also invite it directly into a chat group to identify messages authenticity. The development of this technology is because after analyzing users’ habits, the team has found that most of the fake messages or fake promotions are forwarded from chat groups.
▲”Dr. Message” is workable in a group chat as well
“Dr. Message” has won the first prize in the U.S.-Taiwan Tech Challenge 2020, and received praises by the Digital Minister Audrey Tang. Please share with us your experience while working on this project?
The reason we developed “Dr. Message” is simple: We hope that no one will be deceived again.
An Award-Winning App Started as an After-Hour Project
We did not consider “Dr. Message” as a product at first. In the beginning, it was just a project which engineers make good use of their knowledge to combat fraud problems for their families. At that time, three of us designed and produced “Dr. Message” using the after hours of work. The development did not go well not being able to keep up with the fast-changing fraud techniques. However, after we redesigned and introduced the user feedback mechanism, we finally successfully received notable results.
Hard Work Led to Advanced Deployment
Initially, “Dr. Message” could only detect the authenticity of LINE official accounts and messages about bargains and discounts. We soon encountered many difficulties due to the fast-changing fraud methods, it was a challenge to collect all the data with the increasing number and the forms of fraud crime. After different attempts, we decided to implement an advanced deployment strategy that enables us to catch the complete network of a fraud crime once we identify a single source.
Fake News Identification as Additional Service
The fraud news identification service was not part of our original plan. However, after a long period of observation, we found that many scam groups have similar content farms or fake news sites that are created with the purpose of passing false news to potential victims. So we seek to cooperate with professional websites to enter the function of detecting fake news.
Dedication and Preparation of the Team are The Key
“Dr. Message” not only won the Jury Grand Prize and the Best Product Innovation Gold Award in the 2019 Future Commerce Awards, but also won the first prize in the 2020 US-Taiwan Technology Challenge. Although the team faced many talented competitors, we still received the prize as we were ready and well prepared in making “Dr. Message” stood out from the crowd.
▲Yen-Po Liu (fifth from the left) leaded “Dr. Message” team and won the first prize in the 2020 US-Taiwan Technology Challenge.
Making “Dr. Message” A Service that Celebrates Social Values
More than a year after the establishment of “Dr. Message”, the team was inspired to create greater social value after receiving many positive feedbacks from the public. That is when I thought of the organization called Flow Global Inc., founded by Trend Micro’s founder Mr. Steve Chang. The organization is the largest AI data service provider in Taiwan with a group of professionally trained physically impaired engineers. We collaborate with them on marking and updating the AI data of “Dr. Message”. The goal of the partnership is to fulfill our app’s social responsibility, making it a meaningful platform in addition to fraud and fake news prevention.
Raise the Public Awareness of Scams
The goal of “Dr. Message” is to twofold: first, help the public to gain the ability to read and search relevant information of scams; second, to help them identify fake messages. Raising public awareness is critical, where gaining knowledge in message authenticity recognition and learning not to over rely on a single source are essential for modern citizens.
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