Winners of the Cybersecurity Awards 2018 with Minister for Communications and Information, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim (sixth from left).
By Jo-Ann Huang
Who would’ve thought that a Dan Brown book can inspire someone to forge a path in cybersecurity?
For the Student Award winner at the Singapore’s first ever Cybersecurity Awards, a techno-thriller written by the American novelist was all it took to spark his interest.
Jeremy Heng began pursuing his passion in information security in his secondary school days, he said, after reading Digital Fortress, a novel about an ultra-secret surveillance organisation trying to decipher a mysterious code.
“It led me to play around with various cryptography puzzles on the internet and eventually with 'hacking' challenges. This involved reverse engineering of small 'crack me' exercises as well. The thrill of figuring things out kept me going,” said the 24-year-old information security undergraduate at the National University of Singapore.
Student mastering cybersecurity
Dan Brown fan Jeremy Heng (right) with Minister for Communications and Information, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.
Mr Heng is just one of the six individuals that the inaugural Cybersecurity Awards recognised. The event, held on 23 February at Suntec City Convention Centre, honoured the best in cybersecurity talent in a bid to develop Singapore’s cybersecurity field.
After all, the industry is expected to exceed S$1 billion by 2020, and Singapore needs the best talent for a more connected digital space.
The event was organised by the Association of Information Security Professionals (AiSP) and supported by the Cyber Security Agency Singapore (CSA), as well as seven major professional and industry associations – the Singapore Computer Society, SGTech, ISC (Singapore Chapter), ISACA Singapore Chapter, Cloud Security Alliance, itSMF Singapore Chapter and the Law Society of Singapore.
Six awards were given out in three main categories, namely Professionals, Enterprises and Students. More than 70 nominations were received. They were put forth to judging panels comprising senior officials from the AiSP, CSA, and the seven supporting associations.
The Cybersecurity Award is just one of the many Mr Heng has bagged through his active participation in global cybersecurity competitions. On top of being a teacher’s assistant covering cybersecurity modules, he also competes actively in inter-varsity hacking competitions called Capture the Flag (CTF).
He represented Team Singapore, which placed second in the ASEAN Cyber Seas Games in Bangkok in 2017. In 2016, he was crowned champion at the Amazon MicroCTF BSides competition in Las Vegas.
Mr Heng hopes to pursue vulnerability research, particularly in binary exploitation and reverse engineering, when he enters the workforce.
His secret to keeping himself safe? Healthy scepticism. “Being skeptical of everything can go a long way to helping keep yourself safe. Evaluating everything critically, from emails to clicking on links, has worked well for me,” he said.
A legendary career in cybersecurity
Prof Yu (right) receiving his Hall of Fame award from Minister Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.
A Hall of Fame Award was also given this year, an honour reserved for an outstanding individual who champions cybersecurity – even before Singapore’s Smart Nation plans kicked in. The award was given to Professor Yu Chien Siang, senior vice president and chief innovation officer at cybersecurity firm Quann Pacific. He is well-known in the cybersecurity field for developing Singapore’s first secure email system and implementing the first few public key systems for the Singapore government.
He was also instrumental in establishing the Government Ware (GovWare) conference, which is now a highlight of the annual Singapore International Cyber Week, the region’s leading conference and exhibition on cybersecurity.
Now that Singapore is fast evolving to become a Smart Nation, it is entering an era where cybersecurity threats are unprecedented. According to Prof Yu, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of protection.
“We will see the emergence of new threats evolving from the use of artificial intelligence, from the introduction of industrial Internet of Things, and also from the possible subversion of robots and drones, as these become appended to the internet,” he said.
“We have not seen defensive ideas like Security by Design, Privacy by Design and Resiliency by Design, making good traction. Without a strong defensive architecture, important Smart Nation systems would be subjected eventually to cyber subversion. We should expect attacks to come by, fast and furious, as the stakes become higher,” he said.
“Companies and users should always ensure that they have the means to know if they had been security-breached and know how to respond. Visibility would be key to enterprise security, which includes knowing how existing defences are coping with ongoing attacks and how the attackers are improving themselves," he added.
An industry leader's contribution
Dr Lim Woo Lip with the Leader Award in the Professional Category of the Cybersecurity Awards 2018.
On the industry front, Dr Lim Woo Lip won the Leader Award in the Professional Category. He is vice president of SmartHub and Cyber Security at StarHub, leading the telco’s development in big data analytics and cybersecurity capabilities.
Dr Lim advocates a strong local ICT ecosystem for long-term sustainability. His achievements include driving public-private partnerships, such as the Starhub Cyber Security Centre of Excellence, which has brought together world-renowned cybersecurity companies and local institutes of higher learning to jointly develop Singapore’s cybersecurity capabilities and talents. Prior to joining StarHub in 2013, Woo Lip worked in the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) for 25 years.
When asked about his insights on cyber defence for companies, Dr Lim cites cost as a possible issue small businesses face when it comes to outfitting their cybersecurity platforms, in the face of increasingly complex cyber attacks.
“The basic level of protection, such as firewall and antivirus software, is no longer sufficient,” he said. To strengthen their cyber defence, he added that enterprises should adopt a more comprehensive, multi-dimensional approach.
It may not be easy, as “solutions and services available today are manpower-intensive and not well-integrated.”
But Dr Lim is optimistic.
“Soon, automation leveraging data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence would bring down the cost of such high-quality cybersecurity solutions and services significantly. I believe this would be the beginning of more widespread adoption.”