Beefing up cyber security

As much as $528 million or 22 per cent of Singapore's tech budget this year has been set aside for security - the highest ever.

It comes on the back of Singapore's aggressive digital push to improve citizens' lives and grow in the future digital economy.

Even as Singapore charges forward with these digital exploits, it is ever mindful of the need to improve the public sector's response time to rising cyber-security threats.

A huge part of the security budget will go to the first Government Security Operation Centre (SOC) - featuring artificial intelligence and the analytics smarts to detect cyber threats.

Cyber threats are becoming more automated and sophisticated with the use of robots. Similarly, the cyber-defence team in the public sector needs to use robots to better counter these threats.

The SOC will replace the Cyber-Watch Centre, which has been in operation since 2007 to monitor critical public-sector IT installations round the clock. The contract for the centre, awarded to locally based security services provider e-Cop, will expire in 2019.

New capabilities to track unauthorised changes to websites and spot malicious files were added to the Cyber-Watch Centre in 2014 following a spate of attacks the previous year against government websites - including the defacement of the Prime Minister's Office and Istana webpages.

Spending on cyber-security solutions in 2014 came close to this year's record budget. That year, about $400 million, or 20 per cent of the total technology spending, went to security.

In all, $2.4 billion worth of technology tenders will be called this financial year ending March 31 next year. The focus will be on software - specifically, digital and data analytics, cyber security and smart applications. These will build on infrastructure projects such as network and cabling awarded last year as part of Singapore's Smart Nation and digital government plans.

Irene Tham

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2017, with the headline 'Beefing up cyber security'. Print Edition | Subscribe