Mindef aims to recruit 300 cyber-security specialists

New cyber training school also set up amid efforts to boost digital defence

Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How (second from left) and members of the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (Accord) watching a demonstration of cyber operators performing incident response in the Cyber Defence Test an
Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How (second from left) and members of the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (Accord) watching a demonstration of cyber operators performing incident response in the Cyber Defence Test and Evaluation Centre at Stagmont Camp yesterday. Accord members who were with him included (from far left) Banyan Tree Holdings senior vice-president Claire Chiang, Asia Resource Corporation executive chairman Tony Chew Leong Chee and Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) is on a recruitment hunt for cyber-security specialists whose mission will be to beef up its cyber defences.

It has also set up a new cyber training school that will conduct courses for such specialised personnel and also help improve cyber hygiene for servicemen and employees across the ministry and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

In a statement yesterday, Mindef said it hopes to recruit some 300 personnel to perform specialised operational roles in areas such as cyber incident response, monitoring of computer networks, and testing for security weaknesses in IT infrastructure and applications.

The announcements were made on the sidelines of an Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (Accord) visit to Stagmont Camp hosted by Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How.

Mr Heng told reporters after the visit that the establishment of these schemes and the cyber defence school will put Singapore in a better position to defend itself against cyber threats.

"(We have set up these capabilities) to ensure that we are operationally ready even in the face of these attacks so that we can protect our sovereignty and give peace of mind to Singaporeans," he said.

Singapore has stepped up efforts on cyber security following attacks globally and here in recent years, such as the WannaCry ransomware attacks in 2017 and the SingHealth data breach in June last year.

Mindef was also hit by the theft of NRIC numbers, telephone numbers and birth dates of 850 personnel in February 2017, with the attack executed remotely over the Internet.

Digital defence came under the spotlight recently with its launch as the sixth pillar of Total Defence last Friday - the first such addition to the framework in 35 years.

In February last year, Mindef introduced a scheme for full-time national servicemen (NSF) cyber specialists, where they take classes under the Singapore Institute of Technology's cyber-security degree programme, while being deployed in advanced cyber-defence roles.

The 300 regular personnel will come under two schemes. These are: the Command, Control, Communications and Computers Expert (C4X) vocation under the military experts scheme, and the Defence Cyber Expert (DCX) job specialisation for defence executive officers.

The C4X scheme will be implemented in the middle of this year, while the DCX scheme started late last year.

The SAF Cyber Defence School, which was established last April, was opened yesterday by director of military intelligence and Chief C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence), Brigadier-General Ng Chad-Son. It has run courses such as the Cyber Defence Operator and Cyber Specialist Cadet courses, meant for NSFs in the cyber vocation.

For DCX and C4X personnel, up to 20 weeks of training will be done at the school, which will also conduct cyber-security workshops for servicemen and employees of Mindef and the SAF to strengthen education on cyber standards, regulations and best practices, and to inculcate strong cyber awareness.

Depending on their operational roles, DCX and C4X personnel will be trained in technical skills, such as threat hunting, malware forensics, cryptography, network security and cyber analytics.

Military Expert 4 S. Subash, 30, a plans officer under SAF C4 Command who has signed up to be a C4X, said he will have to take a number of external courses as part of his transition process.

"This is to ensure we keep up with evolving technologies and to be updated with the cyber threats out there," he said.

Defence Cyber Expert Serena Ong, 31, said she took on the job because it was challenging and there was a lot of room for professional growth, with cyber threats growing and evolving all the time.

"The DCX scheme is good because now there is a shortage of cyber-security professionals not just in Singapore, but also around the world. This scheme will help to widen the pool of candidates," she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2019, with the headline Mindef aims to recruit 300 cyber-security specialists. Subscribe