THE increasing frequency and severity of malicious and sophisticated cyber-attacks in Singapore is a particularly worrying trend.
Rapid digitisation has exposed businesses, systems and services to threats such as financial hacking and identity theft.
Critical infrastructure such as electric power systems, water treatment and distribution, and transportation systems are also at risk.
There is thus a pressing need for cyber security education and specialists trained to detect, analyse and guard against cyber-attacks, says Professor Aditya P. Mathur (inset), head of Pillar and Professor, Information Systems Technology and Design, Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).
Currency and potency
SUTD’s new Master of Science in Security by Design (MSSD) programme was officially launched in November. Applications will close on March 31 and the programme will see its first intake in September.
In cyber security terms, “Security by Design” assumes that a product, service or system will operate in an environment where malicious cyber-attacks are assumed to be a constant factor.
To provide the highest level of cyber security, appropriate security policies, tools, and methods are crafted and embedded into the product, service or system before it becomes operational.
The MSSD course will provide students with an innovative approach to cyber security that combines in-depth technical knowledge and a broad skill set.
It will focus on cyber security for critical networks and public infrastructure in Singapore, all essential to help design and manage a Smart Nation.
Busy working professionals who wish to upgrade themselves or consider a mid-career switch will have the flexibility to do the course on a one-year full-time basis, or two-year part-time basis.
Students should have an engineering, computer science or science-related background, and be familiar with one or more of the programming languages — Java, C/C++ or Python.
Says Prof Mathur: “MSSD students must be prepared to work hard and embrace mathematical concepts and ideas that they may not have been exposed to.
“Above all, they must be willing to advance their learning through rigorous research and experimentation.”
The MSSD programme incorporates SUTD’s key pedagogic features: a focus on design innovation, active learning and a multidisciplinary approach to research.
In addition, it boasts a curriculum that has been developed in close collaboration with numerous public and private sector organisations in Singapore.
The modules are designed to be industry-relevant, says Prof Mathur.
“Furthermore, the hands-on nature of the programme ensures that MSSD students are provided with ample opportunity to understand core cyber security concepts such as cryptography, secure programming and secure communication protocols. These can be combined with the latest research findings (applied and fundamental) to devise new and innovative cyber security solutions for real-world situations,” he adds.
For instance, MSSD students can learn how machine learning techniques (a form of artificial intelligence that enables computers to learn without human input) can aid in the design of intrusion detection systems.
They will learn how research findings from the scientific study of physics and chemistry can be utilised to create attack-detection mechanisms in cyber-physical systems; and how cyber-crime can be actively combated using various unconventional tools and techniques.
MSSD students will also have direct access to four test beds — Secure Water Treatment (SWaT), Water Distribution (WADI), Electric Power and Intelligent Control (EPIC), and Research in Security Innovation Lab for Internet of Things (RESILIOT).
The test beds are managed by SUTD’s iTrust, a centre for cybersecurity research, and were designed in consultation with numerous stakeholders and built and operationalised by professionals.
They emulate real-world, real-time environments for cutting-edge research and training on cyber security policies, tools, and methods in the design of secure critical infrastructure and Internet of Things.
Working on the test beds will help MSSD students acquire practical knowledge and skills, and enable them to become adept in the design of new secure critical infrastructure. They will improve the resilience of existing systems, says Prof Mathur.
He points out that MSSD graduates will enjoy numerous employment opportunities as secure software and system designers, developers, architects and engineers, to contribute to the online security of organisations, especially those engaged in e-commerce.
They can also safeguard the security of large-scale public infrastructure such as power grid, water treatment and distribution, transportation, and oil and natural gas processing networks.
MSSD students may also utilise their knowledge to become cyber security consultants, policy planners, analysts or auditors, or actively contribute in the research of cyber security via academia or in industry roles.
Visit istd.sutd.edu.sg/mssd/programme/ for more information.