Multi-stakeholder approach can minimise tension spillover into cyberspace: Josephine Teo

Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo said a multi-stakeholder approach will help to minimise the spillover of geopolitical tensions into the digital domain. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - In the face of an evolving cyber threat landscape, creating a safe and secure global cyberspace is a team effort from various stakeholders such as governments, industry players and academia.

Speaking at the Singapore International Cyber Week (SICW) Summit on Tuesday, Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo said: “Ultimately, we are all better served by having a strong global cyber-security architecture that gives our people and businesses the confidence and trust to engage with the digital domain.”

She said a multi-stakeholder approach, which involves keeping channels of communication open, as well as building shared expectations and norms of behaviour, will help to minimise the spillover of geopolitical tensions into the digital domain.

Sharing the same view was United States Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, who noted: “The US believes that we must work hand in glove with international and municipal governments, non-profit organisations, academia, and the private sector to address the ever-changing cyber threats we face.

“These are shared challenges that demand a unified response.”

The summit at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre is part of this year’s SICW, which is in its seventh annual run.

Noting that the Russia-Ukraine conflict has sharpened divisions among countries, Mrs Teo said international consensus has become harder to achieve even as it is needed to make progress in important issues such as cyber security.

“We continue to face an uphill battle to secure widely used technologies against malicious cyber actors,” she added.

“These ‘bad hats’ are constantly innovating to develop new tools, techniques, and procedures to target both newly uncovered vulnerabilities and old vulnerabilities that remain unpatched or poorly patched.”

Mrs Teo said a strong global cyber-security architecture is needed to address the challenges of rising geopolitical tensions and an evolving cyber threat landscape.

“This means all of us doing our part to help our cyberspace remain open, stable, and interoperable,” she added.

Mr Mayorkas also noted that hackers continue to grow in sophistication and scope in their attacks.

He said the current state of technology has allowed people to communicate and share ideas across the world, as well as enabled countries to grow their economies and strengthen their national security.

“But our interconnectedness and technology that enables the cyber ecosystem also exposes us to a dynamic and evolving threat environment,” he said, adding that such cyber threats are not contained by country borders.

US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas speaking with The Straits Times associate editor Ravi Velloor during the Singapore International Cyber Week summit at Sands Expo & Convention Centre on Oct 18, 2022. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Mr Mayorkas also said the world is at a “cyber crossroads”, where some countries are choosing to work together to combat cyber threats while others are risking their cyber security for unsecure technology.

He said countries which accept China’s offer to improve their telecommunications networks risk having data on their systems, organisations and citizens obtained by the Asian nation.

“Cheap telecommunications technology is not worth the price of your citizens’ privacy, your national security or your sovereignty,” he said.

Besides China, Mr Mayorkas identified Russia, Iran and North Korea as hostile nations which threaten the economic and national security threats of other countries with their cyber operations.

“People should live their lives free of fear,” he said, adding that such fear can be for their physical safety or having their information exploited, among other things.

“Critical to these things is ensuring the cyber space remains free and secure.”

Tuesday’s event also saw Mr Mayorkas fielding questions from The Straits Times’ associate editor Ravi Velloor in a discussion.

When asked whether the next major war might be waged in cyberspace, Mr Mayorkas said it is clear from the Ukraine war that the digital domain has become an element of the battlefield.

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