Hackers have targeted organisations big and small. While the bigger organisations can afford to build a cybersecurity network, small businesses may struggle to defend themselves.

Veronica Tan, Director, Safer Cyberspace Division, Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) helps smaller businesses understand and adopt cybersecurity protections. She discusses her work arming enterprises across the country with the latest tools and techniques.

Tell us more about your role. How do you protect the digital realm and improve citizens’ lives?

I am with the Safer Cyberspace Division in CSA. Our work focuses on Singapore enterprises – we develop programmes that help enterprises protect themselves in the digital domain and raise their level of cybersecurity.

For example, smaller enterprises tend to be resource-constrained, and may not invest significantly in cybersecurity. To help even the smaller enterprises take greater ownership of cybersecurity, CSA has developed the SG Cyber Safe cybersecurity toolkits for key enterprise roles such as enterprise leaders and Small Medium Enterprise (SME) owners, IT teams, and employees.

What are some unique or interesting ways CSA is reaching out to enterprises?

In 2021, CSA launched the “Better Cyber Safe than Sorry” campaign to drive awareness and adoption of cybersecurity practices.

Beyond a national awareness campaign, one of the new ways CSA intends to reach out to enterprises is through public-private collaboration. Cybersecurity is a collective responsibility that requires the government and the industry to work closely together. The Government alone cannot reach out to all businesses to encourage them to strengthen their cyber resilience.

To foster such collective efforts with industry, CSA will be launching the SG Cyber Safe Partnership Programme during the Singapore International Cyber Week (SICW) in early October 2021.  This Programme galvanises and builds on the “multiplier effect” for the business community to support CSA in the its cybersecurity awareness and adoption efforts.

What has been the most impactful project of your career?

The Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network project is the most impactful project I have worked on. Being an infrastructure project, the project took many years to realise, and it eventually resulted in a fibre broadband point in every home.

The project resulted in affordable and accessible fibre-based connectivity to homes and businesses – Singapore was one of the first countries offering 1Gbps on a nationwide basis, with prices that were amongst the most affordable in the world.

The impact from the project is also significant – Infrastructure connectivity is typically recognised as key contributors to economic growth, supply chain efficiency and resilience and the project had national impact on Singapore.

What challenges would you like to take on in the next year?

The SG Cyber Safe programme was only launched at the start of 2021, and there is a lot of room and scope for CSA to lean forward and work closely with industry partners to collectively raise the cybersecurity posture of enterprises.

In the course of our work, our discussions with enterprises in the industry revealed a “wish list” of measures that Government could consider and potentially put in place. In the next year, I will be looking into this “wish list” to structure and develop the relevant programmes and initiatives that can meet the needs of enterprises in Singapore.

Who or what inspired you this year, and why? 

I have been following the technological developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 2021 has seen rapid advancements in human-AI interaction. The industry has seen a growth in the start-ups developing “digital human” platforms, and such life-like digital avatars can be applied in the form of voice assistance apps, digital human coaches, and virtual assistants.

I am excited by the prospect that in time to come, we could leverage such “digital human” technologies in the context of virtual assistants for cybersecurity, or for cybersecurity awareness training.

What advice would you give to women looking to start a career in cybersecurity?

Women tend to be under-represented in the technology industry, and this also applies to the cybersecurity industry. There seems to be a common misconception that women tend to shun the STEM-related fields, however, studies have shown that women can score as well or better in math and science-related tests.

Moreover, cybersecurity is not just about technology. Cybersecurity requires a multi-disciplinary approach, and would require different capabilities beyond technology disciplines, including law, economics and behavioural psychology.

This creates the space and opportunity for women with different skillsets to start a career in cybersecurity. The cybersecurity industry is expected to grow and is seeing a shortage of cybersecurity professionals. I would encourage women to leverage the opportunities available in the cybersecurity industry to take the plunge!

If you could sum up your life motto in one sentence, what would it be? 

I think it’s important to stay curious and try new challenges, and for this reason, this quote from Walt Disney calls my name:

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

What are you looking forward to most in the upcoming launch of SG Cyber Safe Partnership Programme?

One of the objectives of the Partnership Programme is to work with industry to drive the development of cybersecurity products and services for enterprises that can complement CSA’s Safer Cyberspace initiatives. To this end, I am looking forward to working with our industry partners to realise these products and services.

Join us at the Singapore International Cyber Week 2021 where we will be launching the SG Cyber Safe Partnership Programme on 7 Oct 2021. Interested parties may visit this link to find out more!