Cyber security key to S'pore's survival: CSA chief

Cyber Security Agency chief David Koh says Singapore's global connectivity puts it in the cross hairs of cyber threats.
Cyber Security Agency chief David Koh says Singapore's global connectivity puts it in the cross hairs of cyber threats.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

As a gateway to South-east Asia and the larger Asia-Pacific region, Singapore is a small but highly connected nation-state, and cyber security is essential to the Republic's continued prosperity and survival, Cyber Security Agency chief David Kohsaid yesterday.

Mr Koh said Singapore also offers a test bed for innovative cyber-security solutions in a relatively controlled environment.

"The more digitalised and connected our economy, the more important it becomes to secure our systems in cyberspace," Mr Koh said in his keynote speech at the 3rd Annual Billington International Cybersecurity Summit in Washington.

Singapore's global connectivity puts it in the cross hairs of cyber threats, Mr Koh said.

He said: "The financial cost of cyber attacks can be high, but indirect costs, such as the loss of trust from the public, can be even higher. This is especially relevant for Singapore, whose brand name is often associated with trust, transparency and efficiency.

"We are a major banking, aviation and maritime hub; a significant proportion of the world's financial capital, air traffic and freight flows through our borders. Cyber attacks that impact such supranational infrastructure will have spillover effects on systems beyond our shores.

" The tremors of a concerted cyber attack on Singapore's financial sector, for instance, could be immediately felt in New York and London."

In cyber security, one is only as strong as the weakest link, Mr Koh said. "It is important for the public and small businesses to be more diligent about protecting their digital lives and assets, to improve our collective safety in cyberspace," he said. "As seen from the spate of ransomware campaigns over the past year, small businesses and individuals are often the victims of such indiscriminate attacks."

But cyber security is not just doom and gloom. He said: "The cyber sector opens up jobs and opportunities for our citizens. Building up the industry and our talent pool will not only bring economic opportunities to Singapore, but also ensure a sustainable source of expertise and solutions, to contribute to a more resilient national infrastructure."

Mr Koh was awarded the Billington CyberSecurity International Leadership award at the event yesterday. The award was given to Mr Koh for his many years of public service to Singapore, and for Singapore's leadership in cyber security, said the organiser of the event, Billington CyberSecurity, which is a firm that offers cyber-security solutions.

"Mr Koh played a pivotal role and made significant contributions to strengthen cyber security in Singapore, including… the successful launch of Singapore's cyber-security strategy and passage of Singapore's comprehensive cyber-security legislation," Billington CyberSecurity said in a statement.

"Mr Koh has also made significant contributions towards shaping international and regional cooperation on cyber norms of behaviour and cyber capacity-building. Under his leadership, Singapore was ranked No. 1 in the International Telecommunication Union's Global Cyber security Index for 2017."

Singapore's Ambassador to the US Ashok Mirpuri said: "Our commitment to, and proficiency in cyber security and technology is a vital piece of the Singapore-United States partnership."

In 2016, Singapore and the US signed a Memorandum of Understanding to formalise their commitment to cooperation in cyber security.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2018, with the headline 'Cyber security key to S'pore's survival: CSA chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe