Singapore pledges to improve cybersecurity

update Over 300,000 pledges collected from online community, as well as public and private sectors, on country's first Cyber Security Awareness Day with promise to use better passwords.
Written by Tyler Thia, Contributor on

update SINGAPORE--To mark the country's first Cyber Security Awareness Day, the local government, industry and online community have banded together to renew their pledge to cultivate a secured Web environment.

Held here Wednesday in conjunction with the Information Security Seminar, the event is championed by the Cyber Security Awareness Alliance, which was set up in April 2008 to increase online awareness and push for greater user responsibility such as the adoption of stronger passwords. The government-led group comprises industry bodies, government agencies and market players such as the Land Transport Authority, Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), Singapore Police Force, Hewlett-Packard, Juniper Networks, McAfee, Microsoft, Symantec and Trend Micro.

Driving the maxim "Go safe online", the alliance said it has received over 300,000 pledges, through its awareness portal, from members of the online community, public and private sectors to mark the Awareness Day by changing their password to improve its security.

Co-chairperson of the alliance, Shirley Wong, said the group aims to strengthen people's awareness on identity protection, for example, not revealing too much personal information on social media sites that may allow their passwords to be easily hacked.

"Look at Facebook, you can find that people actually divulge a lot of personal details, some even reveal their home address, right up to the unit and block numbers. These are channels [that allow] people to attack them," said Wong, who is also managing director of BT Frontline.

She explained that besides promoting stronger passwords as the first line of defense, the alliance also aims to increase public awareness of potential attacks they may encounter.

Christina Gan, IDA's senior director of infcomm security and assurance division, said the collaboration between the private and public sector highlighted the government's initiative to deal with the cyberthreat landscape.

Speaking to reporters at the sidelines of the seminar, Gan explained that the Singapore government sees the need, as part of its Infocomm Security Masterplan 2 (MP2) program, to partner the IT industry in efforts to enhance the country's cybersecurity capabilities.

"We have to recognize the different levels of knowledge, so the alliance's objective is to reach out to as many people as we can to create awareness through the sharing of information, case studies and examples. Nothing beats explaining how [security] may affect individuals and companies," she said.

IDA today also revealed that the mid-term review of the MP2 showed a need to develop an "overarching national-level view" of the state of security across key sectors in Singapore to enhance "situational awareness". The need to train security professionals and step up information-sharing between organizations were also highlighted in the review.

On a bigger scale, Singapore has also focused its security efforts on information-sharing between countries. In this aspect, IDA recently signed two collaborative agreements with its counterpart agencies in Japan and South Korea.

According to Gan, the Singapore government establishes such partnerships with countries that have certain technical capabilities, skill-sets and expertise to deal with security threats and defenses.

She added that the city-state also holds informal working relationships related to IT security with the United States and other countries, in which information is shared on a regular basis.

"I can e-mail my contact in the U.S. and we'll have a chat," she said. "There is no difference in terms of the objectives, whether formal or informal. At the end of the day, it is the partnership with these like-minded allies that's important."

Gan highlightedadvanced persistent threat attacks as an example where information has been exchanges to create better defenses.

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