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Singapore looks to plug cyber security skills gap

last updated 03 November 2017

New DigiSAFE Cyber Security Centre aims to train IT professionals seeking to specialise in security.

Singapore stands among global leaders in its deployment of cutting-edge technology, but faces a severe shortage of cyber security skills to guard against growing threats. This void must be filled to ensure the country is ready to face incoming attacks.

In particular, there is a gap in cognitive and analytical skills needed to protect the infrastructure in the city-state, noted Mr Goh Eng Choon (pictured above), ST Electronics (Info-Security) General Manager.

In a bid to fill the void and respond to demand for more skilled security professionals, the engineering powerhouse launched a cyber security training facility, called the DigiSAFE Cyber Security Centre.

Speaking at the launch, IDA’s managing director Ms Jacqueline Poh referred to the recent SingPass vulnerability that resulted in about 1,500 user IDs and passwords being accessed without the users’ permission. “This incident brings to the fore the immense importance of information security in cyberspace,” she said.

Ms Poh pointed to other global incidents such as the Heartbleed vulnerability, which was estimated to have affected a whopping two-thirds of the world’s websites, including many corporations.

Understandably, companies are feeling the mounting pressure of these threats. She cited a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey that revealed the frequency of cyber attacks had risen by 25 per cent globally.

The potency of such intrusions is also rising, thanks to the adoption of new attack technologies, she added. As a result, the cost of attacks to businesses had also risen, impacting companies 18 per cent more last year over the previous year, according to the survey.

“With the understanding that cyberspace is fundamentally challenging to defend, now is the time to recognise the importance of having a corps of skilled cyber security specialists,” said Ms Poh.

Back home, the Singapore cyber security market is also expected to grow exponentially, she said. The global value of the cyber security market was valued at USD 63.7 billion in 2011, and this industry segment is expected to hit USD 120 billion in 2017.

To further grow the skills needed here, the new DigiSAFE centre is expected to help IT professionals seeking mid-career changes specialise in the field of cyber security, as well as upgrade existing security workers.

Mr Goh explained that besides security professionals, the centre will also run courses for business professionals keen to learn how to keep their data safe.

Often, employees are the main weak points in an organisation’s defence strategy, he said. The human element is key in defence, he added, noting that breaches can occur when employees fail to exercise caution with passwords, or let their system be hacked or phished.

Mr Meny Har, a trainer at DigiSAFE, said a fundamental part of the courses offered at the centre will involve simulations of cyber attacks. The “full cycle” of an attack, he said, can involve multiple work shifts of staff, and the ability to hand over information from one shift to another is critical to ensure continuity in the fight against the attack.

The security centre is vendor-agnostic and is supported by products from various partners and sponsors, including FireEye, Hewlett-Packard, Palo Alto Networks, Symantec, and Trend Micro. This was done to set DigiSAFE apart from other vendor-owned centres that tend to focus solely on single-vendor products, Mr Har said.

The trainers at the centre also are able to customise training courses for companies keen to train non-technical employees. These will be WSQ-subsidisable, with a 50 per cent subsidy available from e2i (Employment and Employability Institute).

According to Mr Goh, stronger demand for the customised courses is expected from banks and public agencies.

The DigiSAFE Cyber Security Centre is located in Jurong, at the Devan Nair Institute.