Temasek Polytechnic opens malware analysis centre staffed entirely by students

The centre's staff take turns tackling roles such as security managers and analysts and solve real malware problems. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Looking for and removing malicious software is a hard and complicated process, but it is one that gives her an insight into criminal intentions, said Ms Toh Yun Zhen, 19.

The Year 3 cyber security student at Temasek Polytechnic (TP) now has a new space and more resources to practise her craft.

On Wednesday (Nov 17), a new malware analysis centre at the polytechnic was launched by Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary.

The centre is staffed entirely by students who take turns tackling roles such as security managers and analysts and solve real malware problems.

Their customers for now comprise students of TP who can walk in with their infected personal devices for free servicing.

Malware refers to computer software which intentionally harms devices or their users, and includes programs like ransomware and viruses.

Ms Toh, who is one of the staff at the centre, said understanding the kinds of malware and how they are used give her an inkling of what crooks want to achieve - giving her a dip into the world of criminal investigation.

She said: "I grew up watching TV shows like Criminal Minds, and I'm really interested in how people analyse situations and find culprits."

In his speech at the centre's launch, Dr Janil said that nurturing cyber security talent is a strategic priority for Singapore.

He added that while Singapore has made significant progress in expanding the size of its cyber security workforce, the supply has still not caught up with the great demand for these workers.

He said: "An accelerating pace of digitalisation, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, an ever-evolving cyberthreat landscape and a greater likelihood of cyber disruptions causing physical, real-world impact all point to the need for a bigger and more capable pool of cyber security professionals."

On Monday, Singaporean firm Commeasure was fined $74,000 for what the Government called the nation's largest data breach.

The personal data of 5.9 million people was leaked from hotel booking site RedDoorz.

The malware analysis centre at TP will serve as a training ground for students from the polytechnic's Diploma in Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics course, as well as part-time students and adult learners in various courses.

Temasek Polytechnic students can get their infected personal device serviced for free at the centre. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

TP worked with ST Engineering and American cybersecurity firms Palo Alto Networks as well as CrowdStrike to set up the centre.

TP lecturer Sayed Hamzah Sayed Ali Alhabshe said the centre would give his students exposure to real-world problems - an experience which will prepare them for the workplace.

He told The Straits Times: "Technology moves so fast that they will probably be using different programs or methods (in the workplace), but what's important is the real-life work experience, solving real problems at the centre."

Mr Hamzah, himself a TP graduate, was one of the first Singaporean students to undergo an internship at international police organisation Interpol in 2010 when he was taking the diploma course in cyber security.

He said the centre will also allow students to get feedback on their work.

"If they make mistakes while they are learning, it will be in a school setting where there is help," he added.

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