No country, including Singapore, is immune to "dis-information war": Ng Eng Hen

SINGAPORE - It is a type of warfare that is as old as war itself but today, it is opening a new front of fighting that every country has to face.

The "dis-information war" is spreading fast and wide, amplified by social media, and can cause disunity and dissent among the population, warned Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in Parliament on Thursday.

Singapore has already embraced the concept of Total Defence back in the 1980s to protect itself.

But today the country has to update its tactics and arm itself with the know-how to detect and counteract threats in cyberspace and information sphere.

These efforts will include setting up new cyber-defence units and sharpening its capabilities in using infocomm techonology, robotics and artificial intelligence, said Dr Ng in Parliament during his ministry's budget debate.

Pointing out that there are groups out there that are increasingly using "hybrid warfare" to "fracture the solidarity" of a targeted country, he said the use of these conventional and unconventional tools of warfare is the "exact antagonist of Total Defence".

Hybrid warfare is a military concept that usually means using conventional weapons and unconventional tools, like economic sanctions and communications, to achieve victory without resorting to open war.

Citing the annexation of Crimea, the recent unrest in Ukraine and the radicalisation effect of terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, Dr Ng said Singapore has to learn from these incidents to sharpen its response towards the threat.

jermync@sph.com.sg