Singapore announces initiatives to boost cybersecurity

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Singapore has taken several measures to beef up cybersecurity after attacks in recent years. 

A new multi-year roadmap is underway to identify next generation cyber-threats and develop the solutions and capabilities needed to secure Singapore’s connectivity infrastructure.

This was announced by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, at the inaugural Infocomm Media Cybersecurity Conference.

To be developed by the newly-formed Telecom Cybersecurity Strategic Committee (TCSC), the first set of recommendations are expected to be published later this year. The roadmap will identify areas for improvement in Singapore’s telecom cybersecurity capabilities, and recommend strategies, policies and initiatives.

Connectivity infrastructure is a key building block for Singapore’s economy. The changing needs of the Digital Economy will require trusted, secure and resilient next-generation connectivity infrastructure, including 5G and narrowband Internet-of-Things (NB-IoT) sensor networks. The roadmap will help the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) strategically and systematically invest in developing robust cybersecurity capabilities for the telecom sector.

IMDA also announced two additional initiatives to fortify Singapore’s infocomm sector.

The launch of the electronic Know Your Customer (eKYC) implementation guide will provide guidance to the industry on the management of security concerns in their deployment of eKYC solutions, and drive innovation in Singapore’s digital economy. The eKYC guide aims to make it more convenient for consumers to register for mobile services online in a trusted manner by enabling operators to digitally verify mobile services registrations securely without physical face-to-face transactions.

In addition, IMDA launched a public consultation on its cybersecurity guide for Internet of Things (IoT) systems, which seeks to promote best industry practices in mitigating cybersecurity risks for organisations looking to deploy such systems. The IoT cyber security guide aims to help organisations make better purchasing and deployment decisions for IoT systems by taking security designs into consideration.

IMDA has also partnered the National University of Singapore – Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT) to offer additional workshops and training programmes for government agencies and the industry. These will be held in the coming months to build industry capabilities in quantum technologies and Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) trials with local industry players to gain technical understanding on implementation.

“As we look towards deploying the next generation connectivity infrastructure to support Singapore’s Digital Economy, we will also need to be mindful of the increasingly complex and sophisticated cybersecurity risks that we face. IMDA is partnering the industry and international thought leaders to develop a multi-year roadmap that guide our effort in systemically building a trusted, secure and resilient connectivity infrastructure,” said Tan Kiat How, Chief Executive, IMDA.

The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has also announced two new cyber expert schemes and opened the new Cyber Defence School (CDS) this month. These took place on the sidelines of an Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (ACCORD) visit to Stagmont Camp, which was hosted by Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How. During the visit, ACCORD members were briefed on MINDEF and the Singapore Armed Force (SAF)’s cyber defence set-up. This visit follows the launch of Digital Defence as the sixth pillar of Total Defence on 15 February 2019.

People and technology make up the core of MINDEF/SAF’s cyber defence capability. To develop a highly skilled cyber workforce, MINDEF/SAF have created the uniformed Command, Control, Communications and Computers Expert (C4X) vocation for military personnel, and Defence Cyber Expert (DCX) job specialisation for non-uniformed personnel.

The C4X and DCX personnel will work together with cyber NSFs (Full-time National Servicemen) to defend MINDEF/SAF’s systems. The CDS will serve as the centre for cyber defence training and education across MINDEF/SAF.

Speaking at the visit, Heng highlighted MINDEF/SAF’s commitment in boosting cyber defence capabilities for the long-term. He said, “Today, the SAF is using networks and a networked force to fight. So inherent in this approach is the use of high-end technology and digital means. This allows us to multiply the effectiveness of our forces. But at the same time, it also opens up us to being attacked by cyber means. This is why we have set up these cyber capabilities in order to defend our systems, to ensure that our systems are resilient against these attacks and that we are operationally ready so that we can protect our sovereignty and give peace of mind to Singaporeans.”

The new cyber expert military vocation, job specialisation for non-uniformed personnel, and the opening of Cyber Defence School are part of MINDEF/SAF’s efforts to strengthen its cyber security eco-system, which is led by the Defence Cyber Organisation (DCO). Cyber defence operations across the defence sector include SAF military networks and systems, MINDEF corporate IT and internet-facing systems, as well as Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA)’s, DSO National Laboratories (DSO)’s, defence industries’, and MINDEF-related organisations’ networks and systems.