Exclusive: Israel to Singapore – here’s how to boost cyber skills

Interview with the chief of the country’s Cyber Research Center on training programmes and military support.

To build its skills base, Singapore should train people early, partner with industry and boost its government cyber resourcing, the head of Israel’s Interdisciplinary Research Center has advised. Speaking in an interview with GovInsider, Professor Isaac Ben-Israel set out three conditions that allowed Israel to build a strong skills base – government prioritisation, academic focus, and industry partnerships. The three sectors must all benefit from one another in a virtuous cycle, he said, “not ordered to help the others.” Israel uses government-led training schemes to support cyber skills development, with a dedicated high school curriculum and a streaming system that supports people aged 18. “Every year we have something like 120,000 graduates [from] high schools”, and “we take them and sort them,” he explained. “We have a huge military force, and we will send you to serve in a unit that will fit your skills”, he said – noting that there is a specialist cyber security unit. The government also filters the top one percent and exempts them from military service, encouraging them to go straight to university to build up its academic research sector. This has addressed a problem where the research sector lagged behind defence. The exemptions are done only for undergraduates in science and engineering, and once they complete their studies, they have to serve for five years “in the profession that you learned at the university”. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) has also built strong partnerships with technology companies, he said, where cyber recruits can train and learn industry expertise. “We send officers to join the groups of development” within industries, and these projects are “defined and funded by the IDF”, he said. Israel is a substantial part of the global cyber security industry despite its small size. In 2015, it exported about 10% of all cybersecurity products and services in the world market. It was ranked as one of the top ten countries best prepared for cyber attacks, a survey by The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies found. The size of Singapore’s Government is an advantage in building its cyber sector, he said in his presentation to Singapore’s International Cyber Security Week. It makes the public sector efficient and able to quickly prioritise new skills development. The Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center (ICRC) was established at the Tel Aviv University as a joint initiative with the National Cyber Bureau, Prime Minister’s Office. Professor Isaac Ben-Israel's other positions include the Chairman of the Israel Space Agency, and the Chairman of the Israel National Council for R&D. In 2011, he was appointed by the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lead the formation of Israel's national cyber policy, and also founded the National Cyber Headquarters in the PM's office. He is a two-time recipient for the Israeli Defence Award. Between June 2007 and February 2009, he was a member of the Israeli Parliament. Image by U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv, licensed under CC BY 2.0