Singapore increases cyber-warriors in response to military data breach

News by Jaya Prackash

After the shock of having its defence force data breached and leaked in a cyber attack, Singapore plans to up its cyber-warrior force to some 2,600 personnel.

Singapore has just experienced a virtual call to arms - at least that was the perception of many citizens of the island-state when hearing their defence minister Ng Eng Hen, tout the nation's new cyber-defence strategy following last week's shocking breach of the country's defence ministry's information and communications network.

"The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) must keep up with tactics and operations of aggressors in the cyber realm…a never-ending game which we do in conventional warfare," warned the minister, describing in dire tones the chilling stakes in store for his nation.

Clearly judging from the way the attack had happened last week coupled with the thought of the theft of data belonging to 850 servicemen; the episode was sobering so far as Singapore's international credentials in efficiency and transparency went.

More than anything it was a significant jolt, especially when MINDEF, the nation's defence ministry, said that the real purpose was [actually] to gain access to official secrets.

A MINDEF spokesman declined to reveal to SC Media UK anything more than what the minister had revealed in parliament. What is a foregone conclusion is that Singapore will now institute a new dedicated post in the ranks of its military to tackle cyber-warfare and along with it, a new a cyber defence group (CDG). They will comprise two operational units responsible for round the clock defence of the SAF's networks and a Cyber Test and Evaluation Centre (CyTec).

MINDEF's real aim is to build a pool of 2,600 cyber-defenders over a period of about a decade, which is believed to be a quantum jump compared to current numbers which the ministry did not disclose.

Even as CyTec has had been operational since 2015, no mention of it was made in parliament regarding its efficacy or its abilities prevent security breaches, a theme touched upon by parliamentarian Leon Perera in 2016 when he broadly extolled the importance of having a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) regime akin to the United Kingdom's ICO and the Pentagon and the Homeland Security Department in the US.

Yet the fact that the attack was premeditated, led and launched was sure-fire cause for concern for Singapore authorities.

"Based on the amount of effort, time and skill to pull this off, [it is unlikely to be that of itinerant hackers]." By elimination, it's likely to be professionals with substantial resources and skills to carry out this type of attack', warned Jeffrey Kok, Senior Director of Presales, Asia Pacific and Japan, in CyberArk a company specialising and advising companies on how to battle cyber threats.

The operating word was 'substantial resources and skills'; which for some is enough of a casus bellfor war!  


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