Better testing, training needed to meet cybersecurity future
Singapore, July 27, 2016
Two routes to tomorrow’s cybersecurity: better training and testing
The rapid growth of mobile and digital services has made life easier and more convenient but means cybersecurity challenges for banks, schools, stores, local governments and other organisations.
Keeping financial and personal data safe and secure is difficult, especially when there’s so much more of it traveling over the internet and wireless networks. That’s increased the daily threat of hacks and other criminal attacks, which in turn is creating a huge and growing demand for cybersecurity professionals. And right now, globally supply isn’t keeping up with demand.
According to Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB), for example, only a small portion of ICT professionals specialise in IT security. In 2012, the proportion was just 0.8 per cent. And the higher up the professional ladder you look, the greater the shortages. The EDB has blamed that on too few training programmes, as well as limited entry opportunities for professionals in mid-career.
Targeting the skills gap
To address this cybersecurity skills gap, government agencies often work with educational institutions and businesses to boost professional training opportunities. In fact, Singapore aims become a hub for cybersecurity training, which makes sense in light of its Smart Nation ambitions.
Creating such programmes – much less graduating trained professionals – doesn’t happen overnight. All the while, demand for IT security experts grows.
According to recent data from the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), Singapore could by next year see a shortage of as many as 30,000 experts in areas such as cybersecurity, analytics and application development.
To start building the next generation of cybersecurity professionals, the IDA has launched programmes such as a Lab on Wheels for primary and secondary students across the region. Under the programme, specially equipped buses travel to schools and public events to give young people an opportunity to learn about coding, robotics, wearables and more.
In cooperation with the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), the IDA is also launching the TechSkills Accelerator that will work with employers and partners to identify the ICT skills that are needed most in the workplace and deliver training programmes.
Singtel, meanwhile, recently created a first-of-its-kind Cyber Security Institute designed to be part school, part “advanced cyber range”. The institute will work with other regional businesses to test and train employees in how to handle cybersecurity threats.
“Based on our engagements with companies in Singapore, more than 85 per cent do not have robust cyber response plans nor the opportunity to conduct realistic drills to test and sharpen such plans,” Bill Chang, Singtel’s Group Enterprise CEO said upon the institute’s launch this past April. “We hope to arm enterprises and public agencies with the necessary know-how to counter cyber threats in a holistic manner.”
Growing threats demand new strategies
According to the ‘Global Economic Crime Survey 2016’, cybercrime now ranks as the world’s second most reported economic crime.
The survey’s findings recommend that organisations fight cybercrimes with a more proactive stance on cybersecurity that involves everyone from hourly workers to C-suite executives.
To fight the growing threat of cybercrimes, Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs is working with partners in the private sector to develop better tools for detecting, testing and analysing malware. Concerns about cybersecurity recently even prompted the government to completely bar public servants’ access to the internet from workplace computers.
Facilities for realistic testing, validation
Officials are also taking a number of other actions as part of Singapore’s newly rolled-out National Cybercrime Action Plan. The plan sets out four key priorities: educating the public on cybersecurity, strengthening the government’s ability to fight cybercrime, improving the foundation for criminal justice and encouraging international partnerships.
New initiatives under the plan include a laboratory to be developed in partnership with Temasek Polytechnic. Known as the TALENT (for ‘Temasek Advanced Learning, Nurturing and Testing’) lab, the facility is expected to begin operations in 2017 and will “provide a conducive and realistic environment for students to design and validate their innovations, in order to assess if the innovations are effective in dealing with the latest cyber-threats”.
Similar capabilities will be available at Singtel’s new Institute, which will enable cyber professionals to test proofs of concept and validate new solutions for possible commercialisation in the future.
“At the Institute’s cyber range, I understand that cyber professionals can also pit their skills against adversaries in realistic simulation environments,” Singapore Minister for Communication and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said during the facility’s opening ceremony. “Exercises like these can help heighten cyber professionals’ knowledge of their roles and their responsiveness during cyber incidents.”