THE Ministry of Defence (Mindef) and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will set up a new cybercommand entity, the Defence Cyber Organisation (DCO), to lead and coordinate cybersecurity efforts for Singapore's defence cluster, Minister of Defence Ng Eng Hen announced during the Committee of Supply debate on Friday.
He said that this was in "clear and unmitigated recognition that the cyberdomain is the battlefield today", what with the growing cyberthreat against countries, in particular against the military.
Dr Ng added: "The next-generation SAF needs to prepare for that environment where state-orchestrated cyber and information campaigns against another state are considered legitimate, and can be on-going all the time. The impact of that threat can have real and damaging physical consequences."
The DCO, which will be presided over by a deputy secretary - the equivalent of a service chief - will defend the cybernetworks of Mindef and the SAF's corporate IT systems, the Defence Science & Technology Agency (DSTA), Defence Science Organisation (DSO) National Laboratories, Mindef-related organisations, as well as defence industry partners.
It will consist of four major formations: the Cyber Security Division, Plans and Policy Directorate, Cyber Security Inspectorate, and Cyber Defence Group (CDG). Each will be commanded by a flag rank officer or colonel within Mindef and the SAF.
The CDG, a new division, will undertake 24/7 cybersecurity monitoring of SAF's warfighting networks. It will comprise the Cyber Test and Evaluation Centre (CyTEC) - operational since 2015 - which has facilities for network security testing, cyberdefence tools evaluation and conduct of cyberdefence training and exercises.
Dr Ng said: "The SAF must keep up with the tactics and operations of aggressors in the cyber-realm, a never ending game, as they do in conventional warfare."
In steady state, the DCO will have about 2,600 soldiers, supported by scientists and engineers in DSTA and DSO. Dr Ng said that this marks a significant build-up from current numbers, and reflects the importance of this new battlefront.
National servicemen (with relevant skills in IT and cybersecurity) will also be trained in vocations for cyberdefence, to meet the increased operational needs for cyberdefence in the defence cluster. Known as cyberdefenders, they will be deployed in roles such as security operations centre monitoring, incident response and forensic investigation, starting in August.
As a pilot project, selected soldiers will also be deployed to contribute to national cybersecurity, such as by supporting the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, where they will defend the information infrastructure behind Singapore's power grid, transportation and telecoms networks.
Meanwhile, Dr Ng raised the recent case of a breach in a Mindef Internet-connected system that resulted in the personal data of 850 national servicemen and employees being stolen. He cautioned: "We can expect more such cyberattacks in the future."
To boost cyberdefence competencies in the SAF, the Headquarters Signals and Command Systems (which includes the SAF training institute for cyberdefence) will sign a memorandum of understanding with Singapore Technologies Electronics (Info-Security) and Nanyang Polytechnic. This facilitates a tripartite partnership for cyberdefence training. The Business Times understands that this is a non-exclusive partnership; the Headquarters Signals and Command Systems is open to collaborating with new industry partners with expertise in cybersecurity.
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