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Singapore Establishes ASEAN Regional Computer Emergency Response Team

At the ASEAN Ministerial Conference on Cybersecurity, Josephine Teo, Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-Charge of Smart Nation and Cybersecurity provided a current update on the next stages in the formation of the ASEAN Regional Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). At the 15th ASEAN Telecommunications and IT Ministers (TELMIN) meeting in November 2015, it was announced that the construction of an ASEAN Regional CERT was to be a top priority.

Faced with increasingly complex, transboundary cyber threats, the ASEAN Cybersecurity Cooperation Strategy 2017-2020 has further emphasised the need for comprehensive regional cooperation in CERT-CERT information sharing and the exchange of best practices. Therefore, the proposed deliverable of establishing an ASEAN Regional CERT was accepted.

The 2nd ASEAN Cybersecurity Cooperation Strategy 2021–2025, emphasised the need for secure and resilient cyberspace to underpin and enable ASEAN’s digital ambitions as reflected in various ASEAN initiatives, such as the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, the ASEAN Declaration on Industrial Transformation to Industry 4.0, and the ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025 (ADM 2025), once again emphasised the need to strengthen regional cyber cooperation.

Singapore submitted the ASEAN Regional CERT Implementation Paper to the 2nd ASEAN Digital Ministers’ Meeting (ADGMIN) in January 2022 for approval in coordination with the ASEAN Secretariat and AMS after the ASEAN Member States (AMS) decided to establish an ASEAN Regional CERT.

Singapore will collaborate with the other AMS on the Operational Framework, which will establish the goal, scope, partners, functions, and procedure of the ASEAN Regional CERT, to move the implementation of the ASEAN Regional CERT ahead.

Eight tasks will be carried out by the ASEAN Regional CERT, including fostering communication and cooperation between AMS National-level CERTs and forging alliances with industry and higher education.

These functions will improve ASEAN’s overall cybersecurity posture and operational readiness in dealing with the rapidly changing cyber landscape by enabling stronger regional cybersecurity incident response coordination and Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) protection cooperation, comprising cross-border CII similar to banking and finance, communications, aviation, and maritime.

The operational framework and financing model has been agreed upon by the ASEAN Member States, and the ASEAN Regional CERT is expected to be implemented in 2023–2024.

In addition, Singapore’s Cyber Security Agency (CSA) has announced the creation of the CSA-National Cybersecurity R&D Lab Scholarship (NCLS). The initiative aims to aid in the growth of Singapore’s cybersecurity workforce and to promote the NCL programme.

Over a period of three years, CSA will award up to forty scholarships. Scholarships are available to full-time or part-time students who are citizens or permanent residents of Singapore who have been accepted into one of the qualifying degree programmes. This programme prepares students for rewarding careers in cybersecurity research at NCL and beyond.

Meanwhile, to better Singapore’s counter-ransomware efforts, the country has formed a cross-departmental Counter Ransomware Task Force (CRTF) to research, brainstorm, and make recommendations on potential counter-ransomware policies, operations, and capabilities.

An interdisciplinary approach is required to counter the ransomware menace. Senior government representatives in the fields of technology, cybersecurity, financial regulation, and law enforcement make up the Task Force.

Ransomware is an international concern as well. Criminals who engage in ransomware are frequently located in another country and will use any opportunity to relocate stolen funds and avoid prosecution.

As a result, the Task Force is investigating ways to coordinate Singapore’s international engagement strategy in the fight against ransomware and is advocating for increased international collaboration in cybersecurity cooperation, financial oversight, and cross-border law enforcement operations.

The Task Force is chaired by David Koh, Chief Executive of the Cyber Security Agency (CSA), and is made up of representatives from the CSA, the Singapore Police Force, the Singapore Armed Forces, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the Government Technology Agency, the Infocomm Media Development Authority, the Ministry of Communications and Information, the Ministry of Defence, and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

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