Singapore launches S$10 million ASEAN Cyber Capacity Programme

by

13 October 2016

Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim has announced the launch of a S$10 million ASEAN Cyber Capacity Programme (ACCP) at the ASEAN Ministerial Conference on Cybersecurity, which was held in Singapore on 11 October.

The objective of this ACCP, the minister said, is to help fund various efforts to deepen cyber capacities across ASEAN Member States. Cyber capacity building, cyberspace awareness, and cyber norms are Singapore’s three suggestions to ASEAN for enhancing cybersecurity cooperation.

Citing a joint Singtel-FireEye study, Dr Yaacob said Southeast Asian governments are more likely to be the target of a cyber attack than other organisations in the region, and advanced persistent threats (APT) remain one of our biggest threats.

Attack targets could range from financial to data theft, reputational damage, and also disruption to our critical information infrastructure, he said. "These could harm our economies and societies. Furthermore, as our countries become more inter-connected, the impact of a cyber attack in one country may well spill over to another."

The ASEAN Cyber Capacity Programme will be launched in April 2017, and funding of S$10 million will be utilised over five years.

Dr Yaacob, who is also the Minister-in-charge of Cybersecurity said, “The money will pay for resources, expertise and training, so that we will be equipped to drive and take ownership of the cybersecurity agenda in our respective countries.”

More specifically, the programme will provide the resources to broaden the scope of capacity building activities and better hone technical skills and incident response. It will also support discussion and consultancy work in areas such as the formation of national cybersecurity agencies, formulating cybersecurity strategies, and even legislation, he added.

"The flexibility of the ACCP funding allows us to channel efforts to where they are most needed and can be most effective."

According to the announcement, focus areas under the programme includes cyber policy, legislation, strategy development as well as incident response. Events under the ACCP will include workshops, seminars and conferences, which will be organised in collaboration with Singapore’s other regional initiatives such as the Singapore Cooperation Programme established by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Third Country Training Programme with the United States.

The programme targets ASEAN policy officials, diplomats, prosecutors as well as technical operators and analysts. Trainers of the programme are selected from the INTERPOL Global Centre for Innovation in Singapore, ASEAN Dialogue Partners, academics from institutes such as the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS) at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore and other relevant agencies.

Minister Yaacob also announced at the conference that Singapore is a sponsor of the global initiative CyberGreen.

Initiated in 2014 by the Japan Computer Emergency Response Team under the Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the CyberGreen initiative aims to research and aggregate open source information to measure and create awareness of the cyber health status of a country.

"Securing our cyberspace also requires us to have a better situational awareness of our overall cyber environment. This is key to improving our collective cyber hygiene, as we can better direct our prevention and remediation efforts when we know where we are vulnerable and where there may be suspicious cyber activities," said Dr Yaacob.

With this situational awareness, countries can then take preventive action to deal with potential cyber risks and vulnerabilities. "The better a country’s cyber health, the 'greener' it will be. Over time, CyberGreen will develop robust cyber health metrics," he said. “These will allow practitioners and policy-makers like ourselves to assess how our countries, and ASEAN as a whole, are progressing on the cybersecurity front.”

Cyber incident responders can also better identify and remediate different classes of threats, based on actionable threat information provided by CyberGreen, he added.

The minister also said "Singapore is similarly supportive of having basic rules for behaviour in cyberspace".

"While staying plugged in to the global conversations, we should also make sure that norms and behaviours are kept relevant and applicable to our unique ASEAN context and cultures." Such a set of regional cyber norms, he said, would ensure the safety and security of regional and international cyberspace, and in extension, contribute to the stability and economic progress of the ASEAN community.

"With consensus, agreement, and cooperation, we can make cyberspace a safer and secure place for all."