On the back of a recent spate of cyber security breaches around the world - including the hacking of Hollywood studio Sony Pictures' systems - organisations from government agencies to financial institutions have been looking to beef up their information technology (IT) security against malicious attacks. And polytechnics in Singapore are leading the charge in grooming IT security professionals, offering new cyber security diploma courses and revamping old ones.
Two of the four new diploma courses at polytechnics this year will be in cyber security. In April, Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) will introduce a diploma programme in information security and forensics, while Republic Polytechnic (RP) will launch a diploma programme in infocomm security management.
RP will also start a course in engineering systems and management, while Temasek Polytechnic (TP) will begin a course in big data management and governance.
Cyber security courses have been available at the remaining polytechnics - from as early as 2006 for Singapore Polytechnic (SP) and TP, and from 2009 for Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP).
Mr James Tham, covering chair for RP's infocomm security management diploma course, said: "With more people using the Internet, the chances of being affected by cyber attacks are higher. There is a need for more skilled professionals to handle these threats."
Ms Angela Wee, director of NP's School of InfoComm Technology, said: "Traditionally, IT professionals are taught about security matters as an afterthought. Singapore is not spared from cyber vulnerabilities. There is a need to secure our digital infrastructure, so we have to grow our own pool of cyber security talents."
The diplomas are being introduced partly in response to the five-year National Cyber Security Masterplan, unveiled by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) two years ago, when the websites of the Prime Minister's Office and Istana were hacked. A key thrust is to boost the number of cyber security professionals - such as digital forensics investigators, penetration testers and information security analysts - through tie-ups with tertiary institutions.
IDA managing director Jacqueline Poh noted: "Cyber security is a growing global concern. There is a shortage of cyber security professionals with deep skills and experience worldwide. We need to enhance the expertise of our existing cyber security professionals and to train hundreds more specialist security experts in areas like malware forensics."
The new programme at NP will take in 40 students this year. Students will learn to investigate cyber crimes, develop secure computer networks and conduct penetration tests on systems by trying to break into them and then suggesting improvements.
The pioneer cohort of 75 infocomm security management students at RP will take similar modules in ethical hacking, application security and intrusion detection and prevention.
Both polytechnics tapped the expertise of professionals from government agencies and IT security companies, such as e-Cop and Palo Alto Networks, to ensure that students would be taught skills that are in line with industry practices.
To keep its curriculum updated and industry-relevant, NYP added modules such as cyber forensic process, and cyber security attack and defence to its cyber security and forensics course this year.
SP set up a Cyber Wargame Centre two years ago to provide students with a realistic environment to handle various scenarios, such as securing networks and investigating cyber crimes. NYP and TP have also adopted similar training facilities this year to bring realism to their courses.
Mr Liew Chin Chuan, course chair for SP's infocomm security management programme, said: "Technology is always evolving and organisations need people who are well-versed in various security issues. These students have to keep up with the changes."