Cyber-security contest aims to attract young people to sector

Inaugural student competition launched amid talent shortage, rise of cyberthreats in Singapore

A new cyber-security competition for students of tertiary institutions was launched yesterday to encourage interest in the field, amid a dearth of talent in the industry here and the mounting threat of online attacks.

The Cyber Investigators' Challenge was a free one-day event where students in teams of two solved real-life scenarios across platforms - such as computers and Internet of Things (IoT) devices - to outwit "criminals" and quickly find evidence to stop them.

Co-organised by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Singapore Cybersecurity Consortium, the challenge attracted participants from the Institute of Technical Education, junior colleges, polytechnics and universities here.

Fifty teams of two took part in the competition, held in conjunction with the RSA Conference 2019 Asia-Pacific and Japan at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre at Marina Bay Sands.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin, who announced the competition at the conference, said: "Through the Cyber Investigators' Challenge, we hope to generate interest among the young in the cyber and digital forensics profession, and attract more budding enthusiasts and talent to this sector. At the same time, this serves as a platform for them to challenge themselves and put their skills to the test."

Mr Amrin pointed out that the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore has warned that the Republic is set to face a potential shortage of up to 3,400 professionals next year.

This shortage, he added, is not just limited to Singapore, but is also a problem worldwide.

"Therefore, to develop a sustainable pool of skilled practitioners to meet our cyber and digital forensics needs, we must start now to groom young and passionate professionals," he said.

 
 
 
 

This comes after news last week that all upper primary school pupils will take coding enrichment classes from next year, in order to expose them to the skills needed to embrace new opportunities in the digital economy.

Over the past year, both private and public organisations here have been hit by cyber attacks.

Singapore's worst cyber attack was in June last year, when hackers accessed the database of public healthcare cluster SingHealth and stole the personal data of 1.5 million patients and the outpatient prescription information of 160,000 people, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Amrin said there is also a need to beef up government capabilities to stay ahead of cyberthreats.

The wide availability of technology such as IoT devices - which are used in daily life and vulnerable to cyber attacks - means that cyber security is "not just an IT issue", he said.

Mr Amrin added that the MHA will set up a Home Team Science and Technology (S&T) Agency by the end of this year which will ramp up Singapore's capabilities to protect itself against cyber attacks.

The MHA has also launched an S&T Associates Programme to attract and develop talent for this new agency, he said.

"Just as criminals and malicious actors exploit technology for nefarious purposes, our security and law enforcement agencies need to continuously innovate, adapt and leverage technological breakthroughs to fundamentally change the way we operate, or we risk lagging behind cyberthreats and malicious actors."

The annual conference, which is on till tomorrow, sees cyber-security specialists from around the world gathering to learn about current trends and the latest technology in information security.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2019, with the headline 'Cyber-security contest aims to attract young people to sector'. Print Edition | Subscribe