ASEAN unites to fight back on cyber crime

By Amit Roy Choudhury

ASEAN-Singapore Cybersecurity Centre of Excellence launched with mandate to increase cybersecurity cooperation in South East Asia.

Among a slew of important announcements on Day 2 of the Singapore International Cyber Week (SICW), regional cooperation for strengthening ASEAN cybersecurity took centre stage.

On Wednesday at the ASEAN Ministerial Conference on Cybersecurity, S Iswaran, Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information, announced the launch of the ASEAN-Singapore Cybersecurity Centre of Excellence (ASCCE).

The ASCCE will have a commitment of S$30 million over five years and will offer policy and technical programmes.
Iswaran noted that the ASCCE has been conceived as an open and inclusive platform with industry, academia and international organisations welcome to participate.

The ASCCE will fulfil three main functions. First, it will conduct research and provide training in areas on international law, cyber strategy, cyber conflict, legislation, cyber norms and other cybersecurity policy issues.

Second, it will provide CERT-related training, and facilitate the exchange of open-source cyber threat and attack-related information and best practices.

Third, it will conduct virtual cyber defence trainings and exercises.

For a start, the ASCCE has partnered with Temasek Polytechnic in Singapore to have a Cyber Range Facility which became operational from Wednesday. The main ASCCE training centre, located at the heart of Singapore, will be ready in the second quarter of 2020, the Minister added.

New initiatives

Iswaran also announced that ASCCE has undertaken two new initiatives with the United Nations. Under the United Nations-Singapore Cyber Programme (UNSCP), the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and Singapore will conduct a Senior Executive Cyber Fellowship, with the first run to be conducted next year.

“This fellowship will equip senior management level participants with inter-disciplinary cyber and technology expertise to support their work on national cybersecurity policy, strategy and operations. Each ASEAN Member State will be invited to send a representative,” the Minister added.

Singapore will also be conducting a workshop on the Implementation of Norms and Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) as a follow up to the July 2019 UNSCP Norms Awareness workshop.

ASCCE will have to develop strong links with the private sector. “Much of the digital infrastructure and capabilities lie within the private sector. The private sector has invested much in developing its own capacity to deal with cyber threats,” he said.

Call for innovation

In other news, the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) and its partner, TNB Ventures, launched the 2019 Cybersecurity Industry Call for Innovation, inviting companies to develop innovative solutions to address specific cybersecurity challenges.

Each selected solution could be awarded with funding of up to S$1m. The submission period will close on December 2, 2019. It represents a procurement innovation where companies pitch ideas, rather than government specifying product requirements.

This is being done with 10 participating organisations – CSA, Integrated Health Information Systems (IHIS), Jurong Town Corporation (JTC), Keppel Data Centre REIT, Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), Ministry of Health (MOH), PacificLight Power, Port of Singapore Authority (PSA), Senoko Energy and YTL PowerSeraya.

Help for SMEs

The government also announced a scheme to help Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) to improve their cybersecurity. The CSA, Infocomm Media Development Agency (IMDA) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG), have expanded the range of pre-approved solutions under the SMEs Go Digital programme.

SMEs can receive funding support under the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) of up to 70 per cent of the qualifying cost (covering things like subscription, license, and installation fees), to cover part of the cost of pre-approved cybersecurity products and services.

There are four supported categories: Unified Threat Management (UTM), Endpoint Protection Platform (EPP), Managed Detection and Response (MDR) and Data Loss Prevention (DLP). The government has till date received more than 10 applications for pre-approval.

SMEs can approach SME Centres for general guidance on identifying suitable pre-approved cybersecurity solutions and implementing these measures. SMEs which require more support will be referred to the SME Digital Tech Hub for one-to-one consultation on the ways to improve their cybersecurity posture.