First batch of cyber warriors picked to help drive Smart Nation efforts

Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan (centre), Cyber Security Agency of Singapore deputy chief executive (development) Teo Chin Hock (third from left), GovTech CEO Kok Ping Soon (kneeling) and IMDA CEO Tan Kiat How (f
Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan (centre), Cyber Security Agency of Singapore deputy chief executive (development) Teo Chin Hock (third from left), GovTech CEO Kok Ping Soon (kneeling) and IMDA CEO Tan Kiat How (far right) taking a wefie with the pioneer batch of nine Smart Nation Scholarship recipients yesterday. Two women and seven men were selected from 233 applicants.ST PHOTOS: JOYCE FANG
Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan (centre), Cyber Security Agency of Singapore deputy chief executive (development) Teo Chin Hock (third from left), GovTech CEO Kok Ping Soon (kneeling) and IMDA CEO Tan Kiat How (f
MS PUN SHU FENST PHOTOS: JOYCE FANG

She may not be sleeping in a military bunk or applying combat tactics in the jungle, but Ms Pun Shu Fen is training to be one of the first cyber warriors in Singapore, defending the country's critical information infrastructure.

Ms Pun, 22, is among the pioneer batch of nine Smart Nation Scholarship recipients. The two women and seven men were selected from 233 applicants to be groomed to drive Singapore's Smart Nation and digitalisation efforts.

Presenting the inaugural awards yesterday, Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan said the Government had outsourced too many technology projects in the past, but this has changed.

"It is absolutely essential for us (now) to attract a strong pool of top engineering talent to lead and drive our digital transformation... Training manpower cannot be done overnight; it is a long-term investment," he said.

Whether it is artificial intelligence or data analytics, cutting-edge technologies are shaping modern living, Dr Balakrishnan said at the ceremony held at Conrad Centennial Singapore.

"At the same time, we are moving into an era of increasingly complex cyber threats," he added.

KEEPING SINGAPORE SAFE FROM HACKERS

There have been a number of attacks recently. Singapore needs to have a strong ecosystem, and I would like to play a part.

MS PUN SHU FEN, a Smart Nation Scholarship recipient.

He cited the spread of the WannaCry ransomware in May last year that crippled hospitals, government agencies and railway operations around the world, and SingHealth's massive breach of the private data of 1.5 million patients.

"Cyber security is an essential part of our Smart Nation journey. We cannot be a Smart Nation if our systems are open and vulnerable," he said.

The Smart Nation Scholarship is aimed at Singaporean students who have completed their junior college or polytechnic studies.

It is offered by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, Government Technology Agency of Singapore and the Infocomm Media Development Authority.

Ms Pun is currently pursuing a double degree in economics and computer science at Nanyang Technological University. She will graduate in 2020, and will specialise in cyber security.

 
 
 

Her passion is in digital forensics and malware analysis, and she aspires to be a white-hat hacker to counteract the offensive moves of Singapore's cyber enemies.

"There have been a number of attacks recently. Singapore needs to have a strong ecosystem, and I would like to play a part," said Ms Pun, a former Hwa Chong Institution student.

The nine scholarship holders were selected based on their academic merits and leadership qualities. They also aced aptitude tests, management interviews and agency-specific assessments.

The other recipients were Mr Yin Yi De, 23; Ms Ong Jing Yin, 21; Mr Chester Sng Yu Feng, 22; Mr Marcus Ho Kan Jie, 21; Mr Howard Yang, 21; Mr Lee Wei Jie, 19; Mr Yong Ming Yang, 20; and Mr Alan Low Cheong Wah, 20.

Their undergraduate studies at local and overseas universities are in infocomm technology-related disciplines such as computer science, information security and mathematics.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2018, with the headline 'First batch of cyber warriors picked to help drive Smart Nation efforts'. Print Edition | Subscribe