ITE facility to train students to protect equipment from being hacked

The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) is setting up a cyber-security training facility to teach students how to protect critical industrial and manufacturing equipment from being hacked.

This is an expansion of the current curriculum that focuses on information technology, where students learn to manage computer systems and devices, as well as secure network servers.

The school has partnered ST Engineering to set up the facility.

The company will offer at least four internship placements for ITE students each year, under a memorandum of understanding signed on Wednesday.

Around 300 students from ITE's cyber-security courses can attend classes in the new Centre of Excellence for Cyber Security, which is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of this year.

Students will be taught how to defend operational technology (OT) systems, a category of computing that manages industrial and manufacturing machines and processes.

OT systems are often used for important infrastructure like traffic light controls, train signalling systems and the electricity grid.

The new facility will include a "cyber range" - managed and developed by ST Engineering - where students can practise their cyber-warfare training by immersing themselves in virtual environments.

Students will be put through interactive and realistic simulations of cyber threats and scenarios, and will be trained to manage security threats to OT networks and applications, said ITE in a statement.

Mr Foong Chee Weng, senior course manager of network and security technology at ITE College Central, said the simulations could include mock-ups of the devices and machinery in OT systems, and students will have to learn how the systems work to defend them.

He said there is a growing need for cyber-security professionals to be trained in defending OT systems, as such systems are increasingly integrated with IT networks.

Hackers who have infiltrated an IT system could tap its links to an OT system to do real-world damage to devices or machinery, like blocking a traffic light system.

ST Engineering's head of cyber business Goh Eng Choon said a spike in cyber attacks in the OT environment called for a "new strategy to train professionals in OT cyber security".

He added: "The partnership with ITE allows us to help students expand their IT and OT competencies, which furthers our contribution in building the talent pool to support Singapore's cyber-security needs."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2021, with the headline 'ITE facility to train students to protect equipment from being hacked'. Subscribe