New centre to help Singapore boost cyber security

Singapore will face more cyber attacks as technology is increasingly used in everyday life, from smart traffic lights and driverless trains to the ubiquitous smartphones.

The greater risk, which is inevitable as Singapore pushes to be a Smart Nation, was flagged yesterday by the managing director of the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), Ms Jacqueline Poh, noting the rise in the United States of such security incidents involving its critical infrastructures.

To address the danger, Singapore plans to give existing measures a further boost.

One is the introduction of a Cyber Security Bill in Parliament later this year to give the 11-month-old Cyber Security Agency greater powers to secure Singapore's critical information infrastructure.

The other is a new centre to help public agencies and operators fend off such attacks, which will begin operations next month.

It is a private-sector initiative that will be led by professional services company Ernst & Young (EY).

Called the EY ASEAN Cyber Security Centre of Excellence for Government and Public Sector, it will team up with public agencies to develop better infrastructure protection strategies and improve their capabilities, said Mr Paul O'Rourke, EY's Asia-Pacific cyber security leader.

These steps to secure especially the inter-connected sensors in critical infrastructure - such as utilities plants - were discussed at a cyber security forum, attended by 150 people, at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

A key goal of the EY centre is to equip a core group of Singaporeans with cyber security expertise and the right security credentials, said Mr O'Rourke.

It is in talks with local universities, including SUTD, to train undergraduates and professionals in traditional IT - like defending an organisation's Web servers - and operations technology, which refers to engineering systems used to control everything, from a power station to a train network.

He said: "If an enterprise in Singapore was being compromised, I can put someone on a plane out of Poland or a global expert out of the US and bring them here. But we can't do that with the Government - this is very much about having Singaporeans with the right security clearances and who are trained and experienced in this area."

The centre will also produce reports to alert agencies on the latest security trends and attack attempts on overseas critical infrastructure.

Last December, over 80,000 people in Ukraine had their power cut after hackers hijacked its electrical utilities by remotely triggering circuit breakers. It was the first time a power utility failure was linked, with a fairly high degree of certainty, to a cyber attack, Ms Poh noted.

This article was first published on Feb 4, 2016.
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