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Create a multi-ministry task force for cyber security

Political and industrial espionage is as old as mankind, but in today’s globally connected and highly digitised world, it can wreak unimaginable havoc that transcends natural disasters and human wars.

Create a multi-ministry task force for cyber security

A governmental task force in charge of cyber security will better protect what Singapore has achieved thus far in its push for digitalisation, says the writer.

Political and industrial espionage is as old as mankind, but in today’s globally connected and highly digitised world, it can wreak unimaginable havoc that transcends natural disasters and human wars.

Future wars may be won on digital technological prowess and cyber attacks, instead of the strength of a country’s arms or soldiers. A country’s resilience is as strong as its cyber-defence network — or the lack of it. 

As Covid-19 accelerates the digitalisation push in many countries, we must ensure that our cyber-defence technology is developed a few steps ahead of potential cyber threats.

Every nation, including Singapore, should invest as much in strong cyber-security infrastructure as it does in new technologies and digitalisation initiatives.

In the novel The President Is Missing by writer James Patterson and former United States president Bill Clinton, a major power is under cyber attack and the consequences are so severe it would cripple its military, erase all financial records of bank and social security accounts, destroy electrical grids and transmission networks, break water and water-purification systems, and disable mobile phones.

The result would be a severe economic crash and anarchy in the streets, and it would take years to repair the wreckage.

This fictional story can become a reality if we turn a blind eye to the threat.

Singapore is at the forefront of the digitalisation race.

We launched the Smart Nation initiative in 2014, devoted a great deal of money to artificial intelligence and were ranked as the world’s top nation in digital adoption.

Many government services have gone digital and, in the process, made our lives more convenient.

Digitalisation at the business end is also accelerating, thanks to Covid-19.

We have never been so completely connected.

The irony is that we are also heavily dependent on the efficient functioning and reliable security of such digital platforms and the infrastructure on which they were built.

Recent cases of data breaches hitting e-commerce platforms are cause for worry and the authorities should nip the problems in the bud.

Building a Smart Nation requires the efforts of the whole country. And even more so if we want to ensure a robust and secure environment.

We should establish a multi-ministry task force similar to the one overseeing Singapore’s response to Covid-19, with the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore at its core.

The data breaches must be seen not just as isolated incidents to be dealt with by the respective ministries, but through the lens of cyber security so as to draw appropriate system and organisational lessons, institute recovery measures and take disciplinary action to strengthen the robustness of the ecosystem.

Working together, Singapore can better protect what we have achieved so far in this digitalisation journey.

Have views on this issue or a news topic you care about? Send your letter to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.

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cybersecurity cyber attack task force digitalisation

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