New govt centre to detect cyber threats

As Singapore pushes the digital limits to improve citizens' lives, it is also beefing up its cyber defences with a centre to monitor threats.

A tender for the first Government Security Operation Centre (SOC) - featuring artificial intelligence and the analytics smarts to detect cyber threats - will be called by the first half of next year.

The SOC will soak up a huge portion of the cyber security budget, set at $528 million for this financial year ending March 31, 2018.

The SOC will replace the Cyber-Watch Centre, which has been in operation since 2007 and the contract for which will expire in 2019.

Ms Jacqueline Poh, chief executive of the Government Technology Agency, said network and cabling projects are under way to build "the foundation of a Smart Nation and a digital government".

"This year, the Government intends to spend a larger proportion of the budget on digital and data analytics projects, cyber security systems and smart applications," she said.

These areas, between them, will account for close to half of this year's total budget.

Singapore's tech budget this year will be close to last year's record high.

In all, $2.4 billion worth of technology tenders will be called this financial year.

A tender for data analytics software and a communications backbone to link up sensors and data centres will be called by the end of this year.

The investment is part of the Smart Nation Sensor Platform (SNSP), which will feature a video analytics system to help detect anomalies to predict, say, potentially unruly crowds or traffic congestion.

Continued spending on robots is also on the cards this year. In one potential project, GovTech could partner Temasek Polytechnic to build a robot to automatically detect missing or wrongly shelved books in the polytechnic's library by scanning radio-frequency identification tags on the books.

This year's budget is close to the $2.82 billion spent last year. Last year, two-thirds of technology contracts went to small and medium-sized enterprises.

The drive to tackle cyber threats has become more urgent.

Mr Aloysius Cheang, executive vice-president of global computing security association Cloud Security Alliance, said a highly automated centre that takes advantage of artificial intelligence will speed up threat response. This is especially important as Singapore becomes a Smart Nation.

"Singapore will be subjected to all kinds of attacks that will take advantage of citizens' connected devices - from toilet bowls to smart TVs," said Mr Cheang.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2017, with the headline 'New govt centre to detect cyber threats'. Print Edition | Subscribe