23 September 2014

THE 23rd Governmentware Conference and Exhibition at the Suntec Singapore International Covention and Exhibition Centre – Speech by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs

Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen


            Good morning. I am delighted to join you here at the 23rd GovernmentWare Conference and Exhibition.

2.         This conference aims to help foster close partnership and promote the exchange of knowledge among cyber security professionals and experts across the government, private sector and academia. Indeed, it is critical that we work closely together to improve our cyber security capabilities as our dependence on information technology increases.

3.         The theme and focus for this year’s conference is “Strengthening the Cyber Security Ecosystem”. Over the next few days, we will be able to learn more about security incident response and recovery, computer and network forensics and investigations. We are privileged to have many experts from around the world to share their expertise and experience with us. Such exchanges will strengthen our collective cyber security capabilities to tackle our challenges ahead. 

 Cyber landscape and complexity of threats

4.        Consumer demand for connectivity drives the fast-paced development of new digital devices and systems in the market. This has revolutionised the way information is transmitted. These technological advancements have allowed us to access information more readily and transformed our lives in many positive ways. On the other hand, they have also created a more complex cyber environment. As a result, cyber threats have become more diverse, and we have seen cyber attacks that have led to very serious consequences.

5.          Let me share an example. In 2008, a Polish teenager built a modified TV remote control to switch the train tracks in the Polish city of Lodz. He did this purely out of mischief. However, his actions had grave consequences. Four trams were derailed and 12 commuters were injured. Fortunately, no lives were lost.

6.         This may be the work of a mischievous teenager six years ago but it resulted in damages, injuries and disruptions to the rail system. Today, a determined cyber criminal can cause even more harm. Cyber security incidents highlight the importance of a robust cyber security framework to prevent any cyber attack, or its possible spillover impact on the physical world.

7.        This is especially critical for Singapore as we depend on information technology in many aspects of our lives. We are susceptible to cyber threats due to our high internet connectivity across the country. Furthermore, Singapore is working towards building the world’s first Smart Nation. This will allow Singaporeans to access daily public services and data with even greater ease on their smart devices. The ease with which data can be accessed and retrieved remotely improves our lives and raises our productivity but also increases our vulnerability to cyber attacks. We must ensure that our cyberspace remains safe, secure and resilient. We must strengthen the protection of our information infrastructure through an integrated, “secure by design” approach to planning. This requires us to factor in security considerations ex ante when designing an IT system or infrastructure.

Robust information sharing and reporting networks

8.         The public, private sector and academia are key stakeholders in strengthening the cyber ecosystem. These stakeholders will have to enhance their cooperation and coordination to prevent and manage cyber security threats. The cyber environment is too vast and complex for any single stakeholder to have complete visibility or oversight. We have to build robust information and intelligence sharing channels which we can tap on to put in place effective early warning systems. Such systems will enable us to better prepare against cyber attacks.

9.         In Singapore, we have in place a two-tiered cyber threat early warning and coordination system. This allows an efficient and coordinated response to any cyber incident at both the national and sectoral level. At the national level, the Singapore Infocomm Technology Security Authority (or SITSA) has evolved into the National Cyber Security Centre (or NCSC) which commenced operations in April this year. One of NCSC’s roles is to maintain cyber situational awareness and correlate cyber security events across sectors at the national level. In the event of large scale cyber incidents involving multiple sectors, NCSC will coordinate with the Sector Leads, for example in the banking or energy sectors, to provide a national level response and facilitate quick alerts to cross-sector threats.

10.        At the sectoral level, it is the responsibility of the Sector Leads to develop real time detection and early warning capabilities for their sectors. Such capabilities will ensure a robust sectoral cyber situational awareness for prompt threat detection and response during a crisis. The Sector Leads have to take on this responsibility because they are best placed to assess the related business risk and impact of such threats. We have encouraged the Sector Leads to set up their own Sectoral Security Operations Centres (SSOCs), which also serve to coordinate the sharing of threat information among sectoral licensees. 

11.         The adoption of a tiered approach in the cyber threat early warning system will enable a quick and coordinated response during cyber incidents at both the sectoral and national levels.

Enhanced industry collaboration to improve incident response

12.         The bulk of Singapore’s information infrastructure is built around and supported by internet service providers (ISPs) and data centre operators. These entities are in prime position to detect cyber threats early and provide the first line of defence. Increasingly the private sector will have a much bigger role to play, as much of the cyber space is owned and operated by them. Key Government agencies and industry stakeholders will need to coordinate closely with each other for better management of our cyber attack incident response.

13.         I will share a good example of effective cross-sectoral coordination. An international collaborative operation, codenamed Operation Tovar, took place in June this year. It involved law enforcement agencies from the US and the UK, together with a number of security companies and academic researchers. This multi-stakeholder operation was successful in seizing control of a large network of 500,000 hacked computers which were mainly used to harvest sensitive financial and personal data. This operation clearly illustrated the benefits of close stakeholder coordination and cooperation.

14.         By the end of 2014, Singapore will also be home to the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI).  The IGCI will seek to spur greater cooperation and coordination among law enforcement agencies in the field of cybercrime.  There will also be multiple collaboration platforms such as the INTERPOL Digital Crime Centre, the ASEAN Working Group on Cybercrime and the ASEAN Senior Officer Roundtable on Cybercrime (SORC) that can help to build mutually beneficial partnerships to prevent and combat cybercrime.

Investment in capability development

15.          Robust information sharing and cross-sector cooperation can enhance our resilience against cyber attacks. We have to sustain these efforts over time. The sustainability of our cyber ecosystem is dependent on our ability to train, recruit and retain skilled cyber security professionals.

16.         There have been various new initiatives by both the public and private sectors to better train and equip cyber security professionals. One such government initiative is the Cyber Security Lab in the Home Team Academy, which will be launched later this year. The Lab will provide realistic hands-on training for public regulators and private operators that help maintain Singapore’s Critical Information Infrastructure.

17.          The private sector has also been proactive in the training and development of cyber security professionals. For example, in January this year, KPMG set up a Cyber Security Centre in partnership with the Infocomm Development Authority and Singapore Polytechnic. The Centre brings together companies, institutes of higher learning and security technology vendors to build capabilities and drive innovation in cyber security.

18.         Boeing has also announced that they will be setting up an International Cyber Analytics Centre in Singapore. This Centre will provide a new platform for collaboration and capability building among stakeholders from the academia, and public and private sectors in Singapore and the Southeast Asian region. This industry-led initiative will add to the partners that will work together to enhance our cyber security readiness and bring our collaborative efforts to the regional level.

19.          The cyber environment will continue to become increasingly complex given the fast-paced technological development, and new digital devices and systems. Consequently, as our dependence on such technology increases, so will our vulnerability to cyber threats. Robust information sharing, closer collaboration and capability development are critical in ensuring that we can maintain a safe, secure and resilient cyber ecosystem.

20.           It is my pleasure to declare the 23rd GovernmentWare conference open. I wish everyone a fruitful conference.

21.          Thank you.