Privacy tool among technologies sought in latest call for cyber-security solutions

Dr Janil Puthucheary (right) at the launch of the Cybersecurity Industry Call for Innovation programme on Aug 31, 2022. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Searching through a suspect's chat messages might yield information that could be critical evidence for law enforcement agencies.

But such digital forensics can potentially violate the privacy of others who have personal or sensitive data in the messages, such as sexually explicit photos.

The Home Team Science and Technology Agency hopes this scenario can be addressed by a solution that keeps personal or sensitive information private as digital forensics are conducted.

The agency was among six organisations that put forth seven problem statements during the launch of this year's Cybersecurity Industry Call for Innovation programme on Wednesday.

The programme invites cyber-security firms to propose solutions that will address any of the problem statements.

This year marks the 4th edition of the initiative, which started in 2018 and was held every year except for 2020.

Participants with winning proposals will be given a grant of up to $1 million under a scheme by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA), and will develop and trial their solution with the relevant end-user organisation.

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary, who was present at Wednesday's event, said the programme benefits both cyber-security firms and end-user organisations.

"Cyber-security companies have the opportunity to innovate for a potential reference customer... and end users can potentially benefit from innovative solutions to cyber-security problems," he said.

The other five organisations that issued problem statements were: sovereign wealth fund GIC, Mediacorp, SMRT Corp, SP Group and local electricity retailer PacificLight Power.

They sought solutions such as a system that stops cyber attacks targeting operational technology, such as computer systems deployed in energy industries.

Dr Janil said Singapore's cyber-security market has grown rapidly, tripling from around $570 million in 2015 to around $1.7 billion last year.

He also cited a CSA-commissioned study, which valued the global cyber-security market at between US$145 billion ($202.7 billion) and US$165 billion last year and projected that it would grow to US$255 billion by 2026.

"We are a small and highly connected country with a skilled workforce - we should be well placed to harness (cyber security) as an engine of growth for our digital economy," he said.

Dr Janil said cyber-security companies need to constantly innovate to be able to counter new cyber threats, stay relevant and grow their business.

He added that a total of $10 million has been awarded to 22 firms under the Cybersecurity Industry Call for Innovation programme to date.

"And companies were able to raise another $40 million in external investments to support the next stage of development of these projects," he said, adding that 60 per cent of all successfully completed projects have been implemented.

But local firms also need access to markets, technology, funding and talent to grow ideas into scalable solutions, said Dr Janil.

He cited another initiative, known as the Innovation Cybersecurity Ecosystem at Block 71, which aims to help start-ups grow their business in Singapore and the region.

At Wednesday's event, CSA announced 11 winning proposals from last year's Cybersecurity Industry Call for Innovation programme, including an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered solution that detects phishing e-mails.

Another winning proposal was a security solution aimed at protecting AI systems.

Among other things, it detects modified data that would bypass or trick AI, such as deepfakes - videos or photos of a person whose face or body has been altered digitally to resemble someone else's - and removes such modifications from the information.

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