Singapore cyber unit to fight online threats

Updated: 2013-07-01 15:23

( Straits Times)

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Amid the growing threat of online attacks by spies and hackers, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is bringing together its cyber security experts under a new command.

Called the Cyber Defence Operations Hub, it is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, with Indonesia still working to create its own cyber defence force.

The newly formed unit allows SAF to monitor cyber threats around the clock and beef up its networks against virtual attacks.

These computer networks support SAF's surveillance equipment, weapons, engineering and logistics systems.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who announced this in an interview ahead of SAF Day today, said such attacks are "increasing in frequency, potency and can create great damage".

On the new command, Ng said: "It allows us to have command and control structures, because when you want to respond, who responds? What is the response plan? It may cut across agencies. It may cut across different forces, different services."

Previously, cyber security experts worked independently within the army, navy and air force.

The new unit will also partner Singapore Infocomm Technology Security Authority to track cyber trends.

Countries such as the United States, China and South Korea already have cyber commands, and details on Singapore's set-up will be announced at a later date.

The republic's move coincides with mounting tensions between the US and China over claims that the Chinese had been involved in cyber espionage.

Last year, in the largest reported attack on Singapore government websites, hackers broke into at least 17 sites linked to the People's Association.

In his wide-ranging annual interview with the media, Ng said SAF is now a "force with bite" since its birth in 1967.

But he also reiterated Singapore's roles in defence diplomacy - that the republic will continue to "make friends" in Asean and with countries like the US and China. This is because Singapore is a small country that "depends on the external environment".

By building ties through multi-lateral groupings like the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus), Singapore can "shape an environment that is as benign as possible" in which both big powers and small countries can have a say, he said.

On national service, Ng stressed that SAF cannot be strong without it.

While a committee is looking into better rewarding the efforts and commitment of national servicemen, he said such rewards cannot dilute NS values of "duty, honour and country".

Citing comments from former servicemen, Ng said SAF has become "unrecognisable" compared to when it was founded 46 years ago.

"Some shake their heads in astonishment... that a small country with limited population is able to achieve this today. It tells us what we can achieve when we put our minds to it and continue to steadily invest in defence."