Singapore strengthens cyber defence with new organisation

The round-the-clock monitoring of the military networks will be carried out by two units of the Cyber Defence Group (CDG) formation.
The round-the-clock monitoring of the military networks will be carried out by two units of the Cyber Defence Group (CDG) formation.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

It will also bolster round-the-clock protection of networks, build force of cyber defenders

Singapore is setting up a new Defence Cyber Organisation (DCO) to bolster its defences against the growing threat of online attacks, as it moves to boost the round- the-clock protection of its military networks.

It will also build a force of cyber defenders - tapping national servicemen, both full-time and operationally ready men - who will lead the charge in this new battlefront.

These moves are vital in the light of the Defence Ministry's (Mindef) disclosure earlier this week that the personal details of 850 NSmen and staff were stolen, a theft uncovered last month.

"We can expect more of such cyber attacks in the future," Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday when announcing the DCO in Parliament during the debate on Mindef's budget.

Dealing with such security threats, including fake news, is increasingly important for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), which as a fighting force is relying more often on computer technology.

Cyber warfare is a growing phenomenon. Dr Ng cited Ukraine's power grid being hit by cyber attacks and, in the US presidential election, the computers of the Democratic National Committee were hacked by unknown sources to discredit its candidate Hillary Clinton.

Fake news inflamed ethnic and political tensions in Indonesia, prompting it to form an agency to counter cyber crime and fake news.

"Modern militaries can no longer choose to ignore these external threats through the digital front,'' said Dr Ng.

Explaining the make-up of the DCO, he said it is "at the highest level of our organisational hierarchy".

It will have four formations, each with different roles, including overseeing the cyber security of all defence agencies and building up cyber defence capabilities.

The DCO will be led by a deputy secretary and the formations by a colonel or a flag officer, who is either a general or an admiral.

It fortifies the military's past efforts at securing its cyber defence. These include the 2013 Cyber Defence Operations Hub, which gathers its cyber-security experts under one command.

The round-the-clock monitoring of the military networks will be carried out by two units of the Cyber Defence Group (CDG) formation.

They are the Security Monitoring Unit and Incident Response and Audit Unit, whoseteams will identify and neutralise cyber threats.

Under the units' watch, the security of SAF's networks will also be audited for resilience.

The CDG also has the Cyber Defence Test and Evaluation Centre, which has been operational since 2015 but was unveiled yesterday.

The ministry plans to have about 2,600 cyber defenders in 10 years - a big jump from the current numbers that "reflects the importance of this new battlefront", said Dr Ng.

SAF will also partner Singapore Technologies Electronics (Info-Security) and Nanyang Polytechnic to provide, among others, industrial attachments and joint development of cyber defence curriculum.

Two new defence technology labs are to be set up, to develop robotics, and exploit artificial intelligence and data analytics.

In addition, a new $900 million training ground covering 88ha will be built to give SAF soldiers a realistic combat experience.

Dr Ng said: "Even as we set up a new cyber command and technology labs... we must never neglect to train the SAF as a conventional force against traditional threats... and terrorism."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore strengthens cyber defence with new organisation'. Print Edition | Subscribe