Singapore tackling cyber talent shortage one capture the flag challenge at a time

Singapore's Home Affairs Minister says it's important to address cyber threats through better regional and international cooperation, better government capabilities, and better public awareness.

There is currently a shortage of cybersecurity professionals worldwide, and according to Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Ministry of Health Amrin Amin, the situation is no different in Singapore.

Speaking at the RSA Conference 2019 Asia Pacific and Japan in Singapore last week, Amin said the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) has warned the city-state is set to face a potential talent shortage of up to 3,400 cybersecurity professionals in 2020.

In preparing for this, the government has devised a plan to "groom young and passionate professionals" and lift the cyber literacy of Singaporeans.

One such initiative is the Cyber Investigators Challenge.

"It is a one day capture the flag event where students from junior colleges, polytechnics, institutes of technical education, and universities can play the role of cyber and digital forensic investigators," he said, announcing the inaugural event.

"They will work on challenging cyber and digital forensics criminal cases, and be able to experience for themselves the thrill and satisfaction of solving some of these cases."

Through the challenge, Amin said the government hopes to generate interest and attract more budding enthusiasts and talent into the sector.

MHA has also launched the Science and Technology (S&T) Associates program to attract and develop organic talent, including in the cyber and digital forensics field, for the new S&T statutory board.

"The program provides young professionals interested in an S&T career, the opportunity to work on a diverse range of meaningful and interesting projects that have a direct bearing on the safety and security of Singapore," Amin said.

"Given the close Nexus and the turnaround between R&D and the deployment of new cyber and digital forensics solutions to support real life operations in cybercrime, S&T associates will be able to derive immense satisfaction from seeing how their work can positively affect the lives the daily lives of fellow citizens."

See also: Essential reading for IT leaders: 10 books on cybersecurity (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Additionally, Amin said there is a need to improve public awareness of cyber threats.

"As a community, we are only as strong as our weakest link, so we need to adopt a whole of society approach to prevent cyber crime and empower our citizens to better protect themselves against this threat," he said.

Pointing to a few examples, Amin touched on the Singapore Police Force's dedicated scam advisory hotline and a scam website -- alert.sg -- where individuals can share their personal experiences.

The Singapore Police Force also engages older citizens through house visits and its Silver Watch program, which Amin said equips seniors with crime prevention knowledge.

"With a more cyber literate public, our societies will be better able to prevent cybercrime, and other cyber threats. Digitisation brings both opportunities and convenience to our societies and economies and as our lives and societies become more digitalised, it is imperative that we continue to build up our capabilities to address increasingly sophisticated cyber threats," he said.

"Digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, robotics, and automation are a double edged sword.  While digitisation offers immense opportunities to transform our economies and way of life, the increasingly pervasive connectedness that comes along with it exposes all facets of society to cyber threats."

See also: How to improve cybersecurity for your business: 6 tips (TechRepublic)

Amin said there is also a need to foster better regional and international collaboration, saying cybercrime has no respect for international boundaries.

"It is not tenable or sufficient for countries to tackle cyber threats unilaterally. We need to work together to enhance our capabilities and strengthen cooperation in preventing and responding to cyber crime," he continued.

To ramp up its capabilities, MHA will be setting up a Home Team Science and Technology Agency later this year.

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