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Singapore Government Strengthens Cybersecurity with MoU with the U.S.

Singapore and the United States look to develop their cyber security cooperation after signing a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) aimed at strengthening information sharing and encouraging cyber security exchanges between the two countries. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the chief executive of Singapore’s Cyber Security Agency (CSA), which oversees keeping Singapore’s cyberspace secure and the director of the United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which leads the country’s national effort to protect and enhance the resilience of its physical and cyberinfrastructure.

Singapore and the United States share deep mutual interests in enhancing cyber security cooperation, particularly as cyber security has become a key enabler for both countries to leverage the benefits of digitalisation to grow our economies and improve the lives of our people.

The agreement came as US Vice-President visited Singapore as part of a tour to the broader Southeast Asia region. “Singapore and the United States share deep mutual interests in enhancing cyber security cooperation, particularly as cyber security has become a key enabler for both countries to leverage the benefits of digitalisation to grow our economies and improve the lives of our people,” said chief executive of Singapore’s Cyber Security Agency (CSA).

“This expanded MoU is a testament of our shared vision to work together towards a stable, secure, resilient and interoperable cyberspace. We look forward to continuing our work with the US to strengthen cybersecurity cooperation between our countries,” he added.

Along with increasing and strengthening information sharing, the agreement is expected to broaden cooperation through joint exercises, as well as expand the countries’ partnership into new areas of cooperation such as critical technologies and research and development. “Cyber threats don’t adhere to borders, which is why international collaboration is a key part of the administration’s approach to cyber security,” said the director of the United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

“The MoU allows us to strengthen our existing partnership with Singapore so that we can more effectively work together to collectively defend against the threats of today and secure against the risks of tomorrow,” she added. The agreement comes just weeks after the CSA flagged an increase in cyber threats, such as ransomware and online scams since the pandemic started in 2020.

According to new figures in CSA’s Singapore Cyber Landscape (SCL) 2020 report, released in July, the CSA’s SingCERT (Singapore Computer Emergency Response Team) handled more than 9,000 cases last year, compared to nearly 8,500 cases reported in 2019 and 4,977 cases in 2018. The latest threat tally marks the second consecutive year of increases in cyber threats handled by the agency.

“Although the number of phishing incidents remained stable and website defacements declined slightly, malicious cyber activities remain a concern amid a rapidly-evolving global cyber landscape and increased digitalisation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” CSA said in a statement.

The agency asserted that throughout 2020, it observed global threat actors capitalising on the pandemic’s anxiety and fear, with ramifications felt by individuals and businesses. These threat actors specifically targeted e-commerce, data security, vaccine-related research and operations, and contact tracing operations. Some of the observed global threat actor trends were mirrored locally, according to CSA, with an increase in ransomware incidents and the emergence of COVID-19-related phishing activities in the region, the latter of which coincided unsurprisingly with the rise of work-from-home (WFH) arrangements.

Breaking down the types of threats observed, the latest report reveals that 89 ransomware cases were reported to CSA in 2020, a 154% increase from the 35 cases reported in 2019. These incidents primarily impacted small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in industries such as manufacturing, retail, and healthcare.

The CSA also stated that the rise in local ransomware cases was most likely influenced by the global ransomware surge, with three distinct characteristics observed as ransomware operators deployed increasingly sophisticated tactics: shifting from indiscriminate, opportunistic attacks to more targeted ‘Big Game Hunting’; the use of ‘leak and shame’ tactics; and an increase in ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS).

Looking ahead, the report identified several emerging cybersecurity trends to keep an eye on in the context of an increasingly complex and dynamic cyber threat landscape. According to the CSA, one of the major trends to keep an eye on is the continued evolution of ransomware attacks.

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