S'pore pledges US$52M against cyber threats

update The investment, spread over five years, aims to fortify infocomm systems and boost the country's IT security competencies.

update SINGAPORE--The government today announced it will pump S$70 million (US$51.6 million) over the next five years to boost its cyber defenses and guard against emerging threats.

The investment will go to strategic initiatives mapped out under the Infocomm Security Masterplan 2, a follow up to the original Infocomm Security Masterplan launched in 2005.

The move will help enhance the country's infocomm security efforts as well as strengthen her position as a "secure and trusted hub", Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, said at the launch of the new masterplan.

It is also expected to bring about greater collaboration between the government, private sector and citizens, noted Dr. Balakrishnan.

According to Ng Lup Houh, assistant director for infocomm security and trust at the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), over 160 representatives from the government, industry bodies, local enterprises and multinational corporations and institutes of higher learning were consulted for the masterplan.

Key themes in the new program include enhancing infocomm security competencies, making national ICT infrastructure and services more resilient, cultivating a strong and vibrant ecosystem and stepping up international collaboration efforts.

Boost for infocomm security competencies
A new initiative under the new masterplan is the launch of a professional and accreditation body for infocomm security professionals in Singapore. The Association of Infocomm Security Professionals (AISP), said to be the first such organization in Asia, will help set in place professional qualifications and career development programs, according to Dr. Balakrishnan.

"The AISP will help to elevate the standing, professionalism and trust accorded to infocomm security professionals based in Singapore," he said, adding that the membership is expected to grow from the current 120, to 900 by 2011.

Another new government-industry scheme is the Cyber-Security Awareness Alliance, which aims to promote awareness and adoption of cyber security best practices. Representatives from 16 organizations, including key government agencies, industry bodies and technology vendors BT Frontline, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Juniper Networks, McAfee, Microsoft and Symantec, are serving a one-year term under the Alliance.

Darric Hor, general manager for Singapore at Symantec, told ZDNet Asia that the newly-formed alliance, as with the new infocomm security masterplan, is a step "in the right direction toward building confidence in the digital economy".

"Engaging and fostering collaboration among the government, private and public sectors is of critical importance as Singapore moves forward to counter new and emerging cyber threats, said Hor. "Symantec is looking forward to actively participating in the various initiatives designed to…raise security awareness and competencies, not just among enterprises but also among the Singapore public too."

To groom more IT security talent, industry regulator IDA will also expand its scholarship program to include infocomm security. Up to 20 scholarships will be available under the tenure of the masterplan.

Building resiliency
To harden Singapore's infocomm security infrastructure and services, the government also plans to tailor specific security solutions to the requirements of various industries. According to IDA's Ng, this effort follows a "comprehensive assessment" of critical infocomm infrastructure done during the term of the first masterplan.

The government, infocomm and energy sectors will be the first industries to benefit from this endeavor, as they play a vital role in supporting other key sectors in Singapore.

Also in the pipeline are cyber security exercises to test the readiness of the public and private sectors in the event of a major cyber attack. Ng told ZDNet Asia that the exercises will be held over the five-year period but declined to confirm when the first trial will take place.