Singapore’s minister for defence Dr Ng Eng Hen announced in his total defence day message that in light of increased digital threats, cyber security will be added to the city state’s total defence framework.
As a small nation, Singapore has historically invested a lot into its national defence, where national service is still mandatory for every male over the age of 18.
The total defence framework was set-up to identify the greatest threats to Singapore, and consists of six pillars, namely military defence, civil defence, economic defence, social defence, psychological defence, and now digital defence.
During his speech, the minister asserted that cyber threats from the digital world can be just as damaging as those from the real and physical world, with threats such as terrorism also existing digitally.
“Malicious malware can cripple our systems,” said Dr Ng. “Fake news can cause racial riots and divide our people. As with the other pillars of total defence, we need everyone to participate in digital defence."
For perspective, Asia remains the epicentre for advanced persistent threat (APT) operations, according to cyber security firm, Kaspersky Lab, uncovering new tools, techniques and campaigns targeting the region.
Furthermore, according to Gemalto’s 2018 first half review of the breach level index, Asia Pacific (APAC) accounted for 35.9 per cent of the global number of cyber security events, representing 27.2 per cent of compromised records worldwide.
However, considering most countries in Southeast Asia do not require a compulsory report of data breaches, this figure could be much higher.
In 2018, Singapore suffered its largest data breach to date when 1.5 million patients to SingHealth’s specialist outpatient clients has their records compromised.
Furthermore, Philippine financial service provider Cebuana Lhuillier suffered a major security breach in which the data of 900,000 clients was accessed without authorisation, compromising the names, birth dates, email addresses and mobile numbers of the provider’s customers.
Considering the rising concern around data and cyber security threats across the region, it is not surprising that Singapore has added cyber security as its sixth pillar for total defence.
“The price of freedom is constant vigilance against threats old and new," said Dr Ng. “After more than 50 years of independence, we must never take our peace for granted or become complacent that those who will do us harm have gone away.
“Whether it is against terrorism, cyber attacks or border incursions, we need total defence to remain strong and sovereign."