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The Cyber Threat Landscape Today

17 April 2007 - Opening Address By Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, and Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts At The Infocomm Security Seminar 2007, Singapore Management University.

Opening Address By Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, and Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts At The Infocomm Security Seminar 2007 on 17 April 2007, Singapore Management University.

Mr Peter Ho, Head of Civil Service,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.

1. Today, we live in a digital age surrounded by pervasive computers, handphones and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), always on, always connected to the internet. Our mobile penetration rate is currently more than 95 per cent. By year’s end, some three in every four households in Singapore will be on broadband. By 2015, all households with school-going children will own a computer with Internet access.

2. Infocomm technology has transformed the way we work, live, learn and play. Singapore’s ten-year infocomm masterplan, intelligent nation 2015 or iN2015 in short, will deliver even more exciting growth possibilities powered by next generation networks with a pervasive wireless infrastructure and an ultra high-speed digital superhighway by 2012.

3. This transformation has been accompanied by the growth of cyber threats at an alarming rate. According to a recent report published by Symantec1, the overall number of threats to date has tripled since 2005. Worldwide, the number of compromised computers increased by 29 percent over a six-month period from July to December 2006. Once subverted, these computers can then be used to launch massive denial-of-service attacks, steal or corrupt sensitive information and disrupt network usage round the globe.

4. With increasingly connected international network infrastructures, no one can hide from the risks that these cyber threats pose. Some of us might remember the Sasser Internet worm incident, which was created by an 18-year-old German high school student in 2004. The Sasser Internet worm affected more than one million computers worldwide, and resulted in total damags estimated to be over US$15 billion.

5. Cases like this have made the world sit up and pay close attention to cyber-terrorism and computer crimes. Last year, the United States completed the development of a National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP), while the European Union is currently pursuing a European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection (EPCIP). Countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and Australia have also established Security Operations Centres to protect their nations’ infocomm systems.

Enhancing Singapore's Reputation as a Secure and Trusted Hub

6. Similarly for Singapore, where security is critical to our status as a trusted hub, we have been working hard on our cyber defence measures. With the launch of the Infocomm Security Masterplan in 2005, we sought to defend our critical infrastructure from cyber attacks so as to maintain a secure infocomm environment for the public, private and people sectors in Singapore. One of the key outcomes from the masterplan is the establishment of the National Cyberthreat Monitoring Centre, one of the first centres in Asia. Last month, the 24x7 Cyber-WatchCentre went ’live’.

7. Thanks to the combined efforts of the people, private and public sectors, Singapore has fared pretty well so far. According to the Sophos’ Security Threat Report 2007, Singapore ranked 50th, near the bottom of the list, in terms of the volume of malware hosted. This is one ranking in which we do not mind being placed at the bottom.

8. But we cannot afford to be complacent, especially with new and dangerous threats evolving and growing at such an alarming rate. Instead of simply taking one step forward, we need to be many steps ahead in our efforts to combat cyber threats. This is why we have already begun charting Singapore’s next security masterplan as we move into the third year of our current masterplan.

9. Recognising that infocomm security will continue to underpin the proper functioning of economic activities across key sectors, one of the main areas that the next masterplan will focus on is the security of the Next Generation National Infocomm Infrastructure being developed under iN2015. The new five-year security masterplan will be launched in 2008. It will ensure that we provide a secure and trusted environment for the new innovative services riding on Singapore’s national infocomm infrastructure.

10. Given the borderless nature of cyber threats, what happens in one country could very well propagate effects to another if left unmitigated.

11. We have already taken significant steps to collaborate with our international partners to respond to cyber threats. For the past few years, Singapore has actively collaborated with overseas Computer Emergency Response Teams, where we engage in frequent exchanges of experiences and ideas in order to explore collaborations to curb cyber threats. We have also recently forged close relationships with the French. Last June, Head of Civil Service Mr Peter Ho signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the French General Secretary of National Defence Mr Francis Delon to share information and assessments on cyber threats.

12. Moving forward, we hope to engage our international counterparts even more actively so that we can improve our collective abilities to combat cyber threats. And I am glad to say that Singapore has been selected to host the Meridian 2008 Conference, an international community for governments to discuss the protection of critical infocomm infrastructures. As a recognised leader in infocomm security, collaboration with our international counterparts will present us with the opportunity to share Singapore’s experiences and provide thought leadership, thereby building upon our reputation as a secure and trusted hub for the region.

Working Together to Maintain a Secure and Trusted Infocomm Environment

13. In this digital age, we cannot take security for granted. We have to make a conscious effort to keep security on the front burner, by continually striving to enhance the infocomm security, resilience and preparedness of our nation.

14. In closing, I urge all of us, individuals and organisations alike, to press on towards our vision of a safe and vibrant cyberspace for all - one in which e-government, e-commerce and e-society can flourish. I believe that working together we will succeed in this effort.

15. Thank you.


1 Symantec Internet Security Threat Report Volume XI, March 2007