Singapore reiterates call for industry collaboration in security

Singapore government again underscores the need for private and public sectors, as well as researchers to boost the country's cyber ecosystem and urges better cooperation to combat cybersecurity threats.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

With Singapore highly connected and increasingly so, especially with its ambition of becoming a smart nation, it is imperative that all stakeholders in the ecosystem cooperate and exchange information to combat cybersecurity risks. 

As key stakeholders, both the public and private sectors, as well as academia must improve their collaboration and coordination to better prevent and manage security threats, said Masagos Zulkifli, Senior Minister of State for Singapore's Ministry of Home & Foreign Affairs, during his opening address at the GovWare 2014 conference Tuesday.

Noting that cyber landscape is way too vast and complex for one stakeholder toe have complete visibility, he underscored the importance of building "robust information and intelligence sharing channels" to support early warning systems. This will allow the country to be better prepared to deal with cyberattacks, said Masagos. 

"Cybersecurity incidents highlight the importance of a robust cybersecurity framework to prevent any cyberattack, or its possible spillover impact on the physical world. This is especially critical for Singapore as we depend on IT in many aspects of our lives [and] are susceptible to cyber threats due to our high internet connectivity across the country," he said.

The minister added that Singapore is targeting to become the world's first smart nation, providing citizens easier access to public services and data on their smart devices. However, this ability to retrieve data remotely also increases vulnerability to cyberattacks, so efforts have to go toward ensuring the country's cyber infrastructure remains secure and resilient.

This means that all infrastructures should be "secure by design", where security considerations must go into the designing and planning of all IT systems, Masagos said. 

And with the bulk of Singapore's information infrastructure built around and supported by ISPs and data center operators, these organizations have the ability to detect cyber threats early and be the country's first line of defense. 

"Increasingly, the private sector will have a much bigger role to play, as much of the cyberspace 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 cyberattack incident response," said the government official, who made the same call at the same conference in 2011, when he urged for deeper partnership between the public and private sectors. 

This theme was further echoed by other speakers at the conference on Tuesday, including former Major-General of the United States Air Force, Suzanne Vautrinot, who currently sits on the board of IT security vendor, Symantec. Before her retirement last October, she served 31 years with the air force where she guided the deployment of cybersecurity technology.

During her address at GovWare 2014, Vautrinot said every individual and organization need to invest effort and play a part in fighting cybersecurity threats. She described how many infrastructures and systems used worldwide, including communications and public transport, are designed in very similar ways because they are built to achieve maximum efficiencies. This means vulnerabilities for one system will be the same for similar systems used in the rest of the world. 

"So we are equally vulnerable to the same kind of intrusion," she noted, adding that this should then pave the way for governments to share data. 

"When you think about the future of what cyber is bringing us, it's a culture that affects international governments and every possible business--whether its finance or pharmaceutical--and it affects you personally. That's your private life and home. Are you all-in yet?" she probed, stressing the need for everyone to invest every effort necessary to combat cybersecurity threats.  

"We need to collaborate as a community and we need to be all-in," Vautrinot said.

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