SM Teo Chee Hean at the Official Opening of Ensign InfoSecurity

SM Teo Chee Hean | 16 September 2019

Speech by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Teo Chee Hean, at the official opening of Ensign InfoSecurity on 16 September 2019.


“Building World-Class Cybersecurity Capabilities”

Mr Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara, CEO of Temasek International,
Mr Lee Fook Sun, Chairman of Ensign InfoSecurity,
Mr Yeoh Keat Chuan, CEO of Ensign InfoSecurity, Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to see many old friends and familiar faces today. I am delighted to join you here today for the official opening of Ensign InfoSecurity.

Cybersecurity - A Global Concern

Technology is evolving rapidly and infuses every aspect of our lives – work, leisure, healthcare, travel. We rely more and more on ‘smart devices’. The fourth industrial revolution and the Internet of Things (IoT) will take this transformation further, opening up new frontiers in the digital economy. Our world is changing right before our eyes, and transforming all our lives - and it depends so much on information technology and the security of those networks.

Singapore is already one of the most digitally connected nations in the world. Our Smart Nation initiatives will bring even greater convenience, increased efficiency and better services for all Singaporeans.

To fully reap these benefits, we need to create a resilient and secure cyber-environment. This is a challenge given the reach and pervasiveness of digital systems, and the sophistication of cyber-threats today. With the growing proliferation of IoT devices and interconnected industrial control systems, our attack surface has increased significantly. More than 50 percent of our Critical Information Infrastructure systems are industrial control systems – running our power, water, transport and other systems. We are also exposed to increasingly skilled and sophisticated cyber-threats, and these can come from anywhere in the world from the most sophisticated players.

Take the 2017 WannaCry incident as an example. The ransomware cryptoworm propagated and affected more than 200,000 computers across a hundred countries. The attack led the UK’s National Health Services to cancel almost 20,000 hospital appointments and operations. This caused disruption not just in the digital realm, but had tangible impact on the provision of essential healthcare services and affected directly the lives and well-being of many citizens.

Singapore has also been the victim of cyber-attacks. We must expect more attempts to penetrate our systems. We have to make sure that we have the right defences in place to protect our systems, detect any breaches quickly, respond robustly to these attacks, and remediate and restore our systems.

Cybersecurity - New Opportunities

To do so, we need to develop world-class cybersecurity capabilities in Singapore. This will allow us to protect ourselves against global threats and give us the confidence to seize the opportunities offered by new digital technologies.

Cybersecurity is a growing industry fuelled by the increasing use of connected info-comm systems, and the complexity of cyber-threats. This presents an opportunity for companies to meet this demand for cyber defence and response. There is potential for Singapore to add value in this space by leveraging our strengths in connectivity, knowledge and trust. The growing cybersecurity industry will also help to create more valuable and skilled jobs for Singaporeans.

Given the complexity of cyber-threats, there is a need to bring together specialised skills to build comprehensive, coherent and creative solutions. I am pleased that Temasek Holdings and StarHub have taken steps to do this. In 2018, they formed a joint venture to merge their respective cybersecurity subsidiaries to form Ensign InfoSecurity.

By bringing together these entities that were already active in the cybersecurity space, Ensign has now gathered their collective capabilities together and has the critical mass to further develop, grow and strengthen its capabilities.

Building World-Class Cyber Capabilities in Singapore

We need players like Ensign to help Singapore build world-class capabilities. We welcome local and foreign companies, large and small, who are able to offer cutting edge solutions to locate and grow their capabilities and businesses in Singapore. There are three ways in which our companies, in the info-comm and our growing cybersecurity sector, can contribute to this, by: Developing People, Innovation and Collaboration.

First, develop our people and help nurture the pool of cyber-specialists in Singapore. Companies need to promote training and continual learning so that your staff can hone their skills and stay up-to-date. This is especially relevant in an arena like cyber, where the expertise needed has to keep pace with the rapidly evolving info-comm and cyber-threat landscape. Companies should be on the lookout for opportunities to grow your staff and expose them to cutting-edge technologies and research. We must grow the number of cyber specialists in Singapore and maximise their potential to build strong and resilient cyber defences.

The Government is contributing to this. Companies can make use of the Cyber Security Associates and Technologists Programme to train young professionals and re-skill mid-career professionals to cybersecurity roles. The Cyber NSF scheme for Full-time National Servicemen will train a pool of cyber-defenders that our companies can tap on to further develop and grow, after these young men have completed their full-time National Service. Further upstream, the Singapore Cyber Youth Programme reaches out to students as early as the secondary level through learning journeys, boot-camps and career mentoring sessions. We hope such initiatives will spark our students’ interest in a future cybersecurity career and also help to identify students with potential at an early age.

Second, we have to continue to innovate. The number and scope of our info-comm systems that need to be protected are growing; and attackers are constantly evolving their methods. We must keep pace and try to be at least one step ahead. Emerging technologies such as AI can pose a threat, but they can also be used to better protect our systems and users. Innovation is absolutely essential for companies in this fast-paced industry.

Our companies need to invest in R&D and innovation to boost our capabilities. Companies can take an active role in national level initiatives. The National Research Foundation launched the National Cybersecurity R&D Programme in 2013. Last year, we also launched the Innovation Cybersecurity Ecosystem @ Block71, our cybersecurity start-up hub.

Third, our companies should seek opportunities to collaborate with other industry players. To guard against global threats, we need to work with the best in the world and develop a community of cyber-defenders with world-class capabilities.

In a few weeks, Singapore will be hosting the fourth Singapore International Cyber Week. Our companies can tap on such opportunities to learn from each other as well as explore new collaborations with partners from Singapore and around the world.

We also welcome foreign cybersecurity players to offer their services in Singapore or use Singapore as a base to service the region. There is potential to work together by tapping on our human capital, technical expertise, networks and understanding of our region.

People, innovation and collaboration are crucial to building world-class cybersecurity capabilities that we need in Singapore, and that can become an important new business area. I am glad that Ensign has made efforts on all these three fronts. Ensign is tapping on Temasek’s networks and is collaborating with several leading global cybersecurity companies like Sygnia, Claroty and IronNet for innovation. In particular, Ensign’s joint venture with network analytics player IronNet involves joint R&D efforts to create advanced cybersecurity solutions. Ensign also has plans to explore international cross-deployment of your people to build deep competencies.

Cybersecurity requires teamwork. All of us – government, industry, academia and the people sector – need to work together to tackle its challenges and build world-class capabilities in Singapore. I look forward to Ensign’s contributions as an emerging player in this space.

My heartiest congratulations to Ensign on your official opening. May you grow, and may you grow strong. Thank you.

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