Total Defence could include sixth pillar to tackle cyber threats

Speaking at the annual Total Defence Awards Dinner last night,  Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said Singapore is less prepared as a society against threats from the digital domain, compared with physical threats.
Speaking at the annual Total Defence Awards Dinner last night, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said Singapore is less prepared as a society against threats from the digital domain, compared with physical threats.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

To address the very real impact of cyber attacks, the Government is taking steps to reshape the Total Defence framework that may see digital defence added as a sixth pillar, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

He said it is time to apply the concept of Total Defence to cyber threats and that the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) is working through the details with other ministries.

"Total Defence has been around for more than three decades. It started in the last millennium; we're now in the new millennium. I think it's time to apply the concept of Total Defence to threats from the digital domain," said Dr Ng.

Total Defence began in 1984 to reflect the multi-dimensional nature of defence, comprising five pillars - social, psychological, military, civil and economic.

Speaking at the annual Total Defence Awards Dinner last night, Dr Ng said Singapore is less prepared as a society against threats from the digital domain, compared with physical threats. "And yet, the impact of some of these threats from the cyber area can be as devastating, if not more."

Dr Ng cited examples of cyber threats, such as Facebook's worst-ever security breach, reported last week, in which hackers accessed the accounts of some 50 million users. He added that individuals, companies and Singapore can suffer from weak digital defences, and Internet scams target the vulnerable to steal information and cheat individuals, revealing that he has been a target of such attempts.

Also worrying is how false information can have disastrous social consequences, and how cyber attacks on critical infrastructure could disrupt lives and even lead to injury and death, said Dr Ng.

 
 
 

He cited how false claims spread online about the disruption of a Thaipusam procession by a police officer and a member of the Hindu Endowments Board this year had garnered at least 3,000 shares on Facebook in less than three days.

"Given our multicultural make-up, this misinformation could have caused great division along racial or religious fault lines," he said.

Dr Ng gave out awards at the event, with the NS Advocate Awards presented to small and medium-sized enterprises, large companies, individuals and organisations.

It is the highest accolade conferred in recognition of their exemplary support towards Total Defence and national service.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2018, with the headline 'Total Defence could include sixth pillar to tackle cyber threats'. Print Edition | Subscribe