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Singapore ramps up cyber defence with new command unit

Nayela Deeba | March 6, 2017
To develop capabilities that will help combat the tactics and operations of aggressors in the cyber realm, said its Minister of Defence, Dr Ng Eng Hen

Minister of Defence, Dr Ng Eng Hen

Singapore is stepping up its cyber defence efforts in response to the recent data breach involving its Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

It will set up a new cyber command called Defence Cyber Organisation (DCO), which will be led by a Deputy Secretary, said Minister of Defence, Dr Ng Eng Hen, at the Committee of Supply Debate on 3 March 2017.

The new unit will comprise four major formations, with each to be led by a Colonel or flag officer, who is either General or Admiral.

"The SAF must keep up with the tactics and operations of aggressors in the cyber realm. [As such,] DCO will oversee policies, train cyber units to monitor and protect networks, assess vulnerabilities, as well as detect attempted intrusions and breaches in the system," Dr Ng explained.

He added that DCO "will have about 2,600 soldiers and be supported by scientists and engineers from the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and DSO National Laboratories".

Besides that, national servicemen (NS) will be given training in vocations for cyber defence as well. "We will deploy these NS cyber defenders to protect our installations together with the Cyber Security Agency," Dr Ng stated.

Exploring the use of AI for military defence
To help improve its military technologies, Singapore will also provide a seed grant of S$45 million annually to fund experiments at two new labs.

"DSO will set up a robotics lab [while] DSTA's new lab will exploit artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics," Dr Ng said.   

He added that robotics experiments have already begun. "Six Singapore Infantry Regiment soldiers are currently experimenting with unmanned aerial and ground vehicles to perform their missions. [Meanwhile,] the Navy is putting Unmanned Surface Vehicles, which can navigate and avoid collisions autonomously, into operations."

As for DSTA's Analytics and AI Lab, it will look at extracting huge volumes of real-time information from Internet of Things (IoT) platforms for actionable insights.

Dr Ng gave the example of how the Singapore Maritime Crisis Centre uses a programme leveraging AI to detect a possible ISIS supporter.

"The AI embedded programme generates a unique signature for [every commercial ship] that enters Singapore waters. These individual signatures are collated from multiple sources, which include social media. They are collated, scanned and fused to give one picture. [The programme] then detects deviations from this signature. This AI embedded method detected a possible ISIS supporter on board a tanker that was in our waters in 2015. Finding this needle in a big haystack is only possible through modern means," he said.


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