Digital defence features strongly in N.E.mation! competition

(Clockwise from top left) Nanyang Technological University students Nicholas Kok, Yeo Ying Zhi, Ong Shu Yi and Ayesha Fathima from Team N.E.Thing is Possible, which chose the topic of e-mail phishing for this year's N.E.mation! competition. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - The war on fake news and online scams such as phishing are themes tackled by teams in this year's N.E.mation! competition.

The annual competition sees students make short animation clips to express their views on Total Defence. Now in its 13th year, it is organised by Animagine, an animation studio, and Nexus, the department responsible for Total Defence and National Education in the Ministry of Defence.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said early last month that in addressing the threat of cyber attacks, the Government is looking to add Digital Defence as a new, sixth pillar of Total Defence.

This year's competition added a Youth category, which is open to individuals aged 17 to 25 from post-secondary educational institutions.

Unlike the teams in the Student category whose members are aged between 13 and 16 years, those in the Youth category are expected to work on their clips without coaches.

Team N.E.Thing is Possible, comprising third-year Digital Animation students from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Ong Shu Yi, 21, Nicholas Kok, 23, Yeo Ying Zhi, 25, and Ayesha Fathima, 20, chose the topic of e-mail phishing.

"We wanted to address the cyber aspect because during the workshop, we interacted with people from the Cyber Security Agency, and found that phishing was a hot topic," Mr Yeo explained.

Miss Ayesha said the ability to identify phishing e-mails comes with experience. Those susceptible include the elderly and the younger generation, who may be tempted to click on links and end up getting scammed.

The team wanted to reach out and raise awareness about phishing, which is a "dry topic", so they created a rap song for their video.

It took them one night to come up with the catchy tune, which features lyrics like "Last Saturday, all my money went missing. I just found out, I was a victim of phishing" and "The e-mail was clickbait, they called it 'urgent'. What was I thinking?! Should've been observant."

For their video, which involves images of fishing - a play on the word "phishing" - they used motion graphics.

"It's a different technique, so there was quite a steep learning curve," said Mr Kok.

Snowypeak, an all-female team from Nanyang Polytechnic, focused on fake news.

For Miss Megan Lau, Miss Rachel Hum, Miss Siow Yan Qin and Miss Rose Yap Tsing, all 18, their project follows a man who receives a piece of fake news and then shares it with family and friends. Before long, it spreads like a virus throughout the country, and ends up engulfing Singapore in darkness.

The students drew their inspiration from an incident in Hawaii in January this year, when a false alarm warning was sent out about an incoming missile attack, spreading fear and panic.

Miss Siow shared a personal anecdote from her extended family's group chat.

"Sometimes they will share things like 'cannot eat certain kinds of meat, if not later get cancer'. Most people believe everything they see, and do not actually verify it first," she said.

With children as young as 10 years old having their own phones and being exposed to information on the Internet, said Miss Hum, it is important for people to think about the consequences of fake news for themselves.

Director of Nexus, Colonel Joseph Tan Boon Kiat, noted that teams are responding to emerging threats that shift away from the traditional pillars of Total Defence.

"With the rise of threats from the digital domain like cyber attacks, fake news and online scams, there are more participants producing clips that encourage Singaporeans to do their part against these threats," he said.

The top 10 teams in the Youth and Open categories are currently in the production phase, until next month.

The public will get to vote for their favourite videos from Jan 19 to Feb 10, and the champion in each category will be announced at an awards ceremony in late February.

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