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MINDEF, STUD Sign MoU on Operational Technology Security for Critical Infrastructure

Cyberattacks are a growing threat to critical infrastructure as they are getting increasingly sophisticated. Hence Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) Singapore is seeking to improve its cyber defences by further training its experts and studying the methods employed by hackers.

MINDEF and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Operational Technology (OT) security for critical infrastructure. The MOU formalises the partnership between MINDEF and SUTD on OT security and will strengthen collaboration in areas including research and technology, threat modelling, training and expertise development.

The MOU underscores MINDEF’s and the Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF) commitment to building up cybersecurity expertise and capabilities against potential OT cyber threats. Recent cyberattacks on critical infrastructure such as fuel pipelines and power distribution systems are stark reminders of the increasingly sophisticated cyber threats that countries face. To this end, MINDEF/SAF is working with partners from academia and industry to collaborate in cybersecurity research and technology.

MINDEF/SAF recognises the importance of working with key partners like SUTD to keep pace with the latest developments in cybersecurity research and technology. This MOU will formalise their collaboration with SUTD to harness their strengths in cybersecurity research to enhance their own capability development projects. It will also support the training and education of their cyber personnel who are tasked to defend the digital borders.

The MOU will conclude collaboration between MINDEF/SAF and the SUTD iTrust Centre for Research in Cyber Security (iTrust) in key areas including:

  • Research and Technology: iTrust will develop OT testbeds to enhance MINDEF/SAF’s ability to test cyber defence measures and better understand vulnerabilities in OT systems.
  • Threat Modelling in OT security: iTrust will develop technologies to prevent, detect, and respond to advanced persistent threats in the OT environment. MINDEF/SAF and iTrust will also analyse emerging OT attacks and study the tactics, techniques and procedures employed by attackers.
  • Training: iTrust will serve as a provider of training and training infrastructure for OT security. MINDEF/SAF and iTrust will jointly organise cyber exercises (e.g., the Critical Infrastructure Security Showdown) to exchange cybersecurity expertise in OT and better understand the methods of malicious actors.
  • Expertise Development: Joint scholarships from MINDEF and SUTD may be awarded to selected personnel under the Command, Control, Communications and Computers Expert (C4X) vocation for both undergraduate and postgraduate studies to develop deep OT expertise.

OT systems include computer systems designed to be deployed in critical infrastructures such as power, water, manufacturing and similar industries. Such infrastructure overseas has been hit by hackers recently. OT infrastructure and enhancements have been used in projects such as energy-efficient buildings.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, the digital world becomes a larger part of people’s lives, cyber threats increase in both impact and frequency. The global trend in the cyber landscape is for attacks to be less profit-motivated. To address this, a Singaporean telecommunications provider is launching a new suite of cybersecurity solutions developed in collaboration with an India-based global IT solutions provider. Cybersecurity consulting, incident response, data protection, vulnerability testing, managed firewall, and managed endpoint are all part of the new suite of solutions

The offering is primarily aimed at Singapore’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with the telco claiming that the new suite comes at a time when nearly half of all reported crimes in Singapore are cybercrime-related. Indeed, the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) last month flagged an increase in cyber threats, such as ransomware and online scams, during 2020.

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