Cyber security a first at this year's WorldSkills Competition in Russia

Mr Ravern Koh and Mr Devesh Logendran, who were awarded a gold medal in the team event at the WorldSkills Singapore competition last year, will represent the Republic in Russia. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Mr Ravern Koh and Mr Devesh Logendran, who were awarded a gold medal in the team event at the WorldSkills Singapore competition last year, will represent the Republic in Russia. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Singapore teen duo to display their prowess on the world stage

At just 19 years old, Mr Ravern Koh Chan Hong has built multiple mobile apps and websites, and even founded a software development start-up that is doing well enough for him to consider delaying university education - or not going at all - to run it full time.

Later this month, he will fly the Singapore flag high at the 45th WorldSkills Competition held in Kazan, Russia, from Aug 22 to 27.

The biennial competition is the world's largest vocational and technical skills competition for youth, dubbed the "Olympics of Skills".

More than 1,300 competitors from 69 countries will be competing in 56 skill areas this year.

Mr Koh, a third-year student in information security and forensics at Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), will compete in the field of cyber security, a new skill area this year that was proposed by the Republic.

He was previously from the School of Science and Technology, Singapore, where he learnt to develop mobile apps in Secondary 2.

His interest in cyber security was piqued when he realised how vulnerable the apps he had built could be without security and tech know-how.

Eleven teams, made up of two competitors per team from countries such as the United States, Russia and Brazil, will be competing in this skill area in Kazan.

Mr Koh is pairing up with Mr Devesh Logendran, 19, who graduated from NP earlier this year. The duo were awarded a gold medal in the team event at the WorldSkills Singapore competition last year.

  • 1,300

    Approximate number of competitors in the 45th WorldSkills Competition to be held later this month in Kazan, Russia.

  • 69

    Number of countries sending contingents to the competition.

  • 56

    Number of skill areas in which the contestants will compete.

Said Mr Koh: "This is a new skill, so we are going in completely blind. But we're more excited than nervous, and I'm looking forward to pitting the skills I have against others.

"It's the first time for us, but it will be the first time for the rest of the competitors, too."

The cyber-security event will stretch across four days. Teams will be tested on things such as defensive techniques, for example, setting up a secure system; and incident response, such as how the teams react to crises and immediate or potential threats.

There will also be a capture-the-flag segment, where teams will have to manage or defend their servers while simultaneously trying to find loopholes and vulnerabilities in their opponents' servers.

The two competitors attend training sessions at NP about three times a week. They train by drilling what they will need to do at the actual competition, such as by memorising different configurations.

Mr Logendran said of the duo's hopes for the competition: "Of course, we want to win, but we are going in with an open mind.

"We've taken part in local competitions before but they were on a much smaller scale. This is a different ball game altogether. We don't know what to expect, but rather than worrying about what might be, we're focusing on our training."

Added Mr Koh: "When we took part in WorldSkills Singapore, we made many new friends with common interests, and I'm hoping to have the same takeaway from Kazan - to be able to build connections and networks with people from other countries."

 

Mr Ng Cher Pong, chairman of the WorldSkills Singapore Council and chief executive of SkillsFuture Singapore, said: "In today's digital economy, the need for a secure digital environment has become critical for governments and businesses alike.

"The inclusion of cyber security provides an invaluable platform for our youths to hone their skills in this emerging field."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2019, with the headline 'Cyber security a first at this year's WorldSkills Competition in Russia'. Print Edition | Subscribe