With Singapore’s cyber networks often under attack, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) set up the Defence Cyber Organisation (DCO) last year to lead and coordinate cyber defence efforts within the Ministry and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
DCO’s assistant director for strategy Josiah Liang is responsible for devising the overarching blueprint that maps out the work that the organisation does.
He works with colleagues from various departments to ensure everyone is aligned with the overall master plan.
The 29-year-old, who is a recipient of the Defence Merit Scholarship, joined Mindef in 2013 after completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Government and Economics from the London School of Economics in the United Kingdom and a Master in East Asian Regional Studies at Harvard University in the United States.
Mr Liang also helps to further Mindef’s cyber cooperation with partner countries, and coordinates DCO’s efforts with other ongoing initiatives within Mindef, as well as with the Cyber Security Authority of Singapore, which is the national lead agency for cyber security.
“This helps to ensure that we are prepared to support efforts to deter, and defend against, serious cyber-attacks on Singapore at a national level,” he says.
On the frontline
“Working in DCO gives you the opportunity to be on the frontline of the effort to defend Singapore against increasingly serious cyber attacks. Being part of it has been eye-opening, and personally meaningful and rewarding,” says Mr Liang.
His role is one of many within the multifaceted organisation to battle malicious cyber acts.
Those in operational roles monitor and hunt for threats within Mindef and SAF networks and systems, respond to cyber incidents, develop intelligence on cyber threats and test cyber defences for vulnerabilities.
Meanwhile, those who deal with policy and planning will map out how both organisations can adopt emerging capabilities such as data analytics and Artificial Intelligence in cyber defence, as well as cooperate with international partners to chart Singapore’s position on international cyber norms.
The dynamic and fast-moving nature of his job is expected, as Mindef’s policies and strategies are constantly evolving to keep up with increasingly sophisticated threats.
“The environment is always changing in the cyber domain, which means that there is always a new challenge and a constant motivation to stay up to date with it,” he says.
Building up expertise on cyber security
Training is available for those with, or even without, a background in cyber security. For instance, global commercial cyber security training and certification provider SANS led an intensive week-long course that Mr Liang attended to gain a foundation in cyber security essentials.
Those with more experience in cyber security and are interested in a more operational role can go for more advanced courses and training. These include opportunities to participate in cyber defence exercises with advanced foreign militaries.
“In general, because of the global and rapidly evolving nature of cyber threats, DCO invests heavily in ensuring that our people receive the training needed to ensure that they are able to keep pace with the rapid evolution of these threats,” he says.
He adds that DCO also provides opportunities for training in other areas that are relevant to their employees. For instance, he attended a course for international relations practitioners at Civil Service College to strengthen his skills in engaging and negotiating with international counterparts. This helps him to pursue DCO’s interests in cyber cooperation in the long run.
Those interested to follow in his footsteps would need to be interested in cyber developments, and in certain operational roles, have prior work experience in the cybersecurity or IT sectors, and relevant professional certifications.
Mr Liang emphasises the importance of soft skills such as the willingness to work hard, a constant drive to learn and improve, and a strong sense of integrity in protecting Singapore’s security interests.
“Cyber security or cyber-related work in DCO puts you at the forefront of developments in this important domain, and offers the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful and tangible way to Singapore’s continued security and stability,” he says.