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Singapore CSA Set to Adopt AI-powered Computer Drives

A Singapore-based company has developed a computer drive that uses artificial intelligence technology (AI) to block hackers from stealing data. The tech received co-funding from the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA), one of the organisations that have placed sample orders.

Projects supported by the Cybersecurity Co-Innovation and Development Fund could receive up to US$500,000. The fund aims to help develop cutting-edge products that meet national cyber-security and strategic needs and have potential commercial applications.

The CSA said a handful of public agencies are interested in this AI-powered solution and evaluating the possibility of adopting it. The tech provides continued protection if anti-virus software fails. It can be used in devices such as printers, medical devices and photocopiers where it is not feasible to install anti-virus software. Companies interested in the device include local and overseas military and defence firms, as well as global firms in the medical, aviation, server and printing businesses.

The drive works by looking for unusual patterns in the way its stored data is being accessed. It checks these against known ways that malware accesses data. Also, the AI-powered solid-state drive (SSD) can automatically wipe its stored information in under a second if it is physically tampered with. If it looks suspicious, the SSD will lock itself to prevent further access. The drive’s user will be alerted – for example, by e-mail – and can unlock the device later when the threat is gone. This kind of attack can happen when a hacker uses ransomware to lock a company’s data so that no one else can access the information unless the firm pays up.

Using AI, the drive can also learn new ways in which hackers try to access data to guard against yet-to-be-discovered threats. This means it will not need constant updates, unlike security software. The developer said there was a need for security hardware due to burgeoning cyber-security threats, including ransomware.

Reports say that tech giants have been taking the same approach. A tech company announced in January this year that its new processors would have ransomware detection abilities. This is extremely timely as ransomware was a top security threat in 2020. Software alone is not enough to protect against ongoing threats. The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore received 61 reports of ransomware from January to October last year, nearly 75% more than in the whole of 2019.

The tech developer said that, unlike current IT security software, their drive can still detect malware programmes even if they “change their looks” because it is looking out for how they behave and since it is embedded in the data it is protecting, it can respond much faster than software to block cyber-attacks. But they added that adopters still need software to get rid of ransomware in a storage system.

Speaking at the product’s launch event, Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Dr Vivian Balakrishnan noted that technology available to hackers has evolved tremendously. Dr Balakrishnan, who is also Foreign Minister, urged companies to take advantage of the national ecosystem to enhance local research and development efforts in AI, make use of the funding and support provided by the government, and find real-life applications for innovations.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, the Singapore Government led by Department of Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat allocated about SG$1 billion to mature firms to get co-funding for the adoption of digital solutions and technological improvements. This move to co-fund the transformation of mature enterprises is part of a suite of capital tools announced under this national budget this year. The government is looking to catalyse a wide range of capital to co-fund and enable businesses to innovate, transform and scale.

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