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Singapore MINDEF launches Cyber NSF Scheme to bolster cyber defence capabilities

Singapore MINDEF launches Cyber NSF Scheme to bolster cyber defence capabilities

On Feb 12, Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) signed its first work-learn Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with an education institute where full-time national servicemen (NSF) are sent for academic upgrading while employed in an operational role.

As part of ongoing efforts to strengthen cyber defence capabilities, MINDEF is launching the Cyber NSF scheme to tap on cyber talents from the NSF pool. The scheme aims to develop committed and skilled Cyber NSFs to defend Singapore’s military networks.

According to a press release by MINDEF, its Defence Cyber Organisation (DCO) and the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) signed a work-learn MOU to seal the collaboration. The MOU was signed by MINDEF’s Deputy Secretary (Special Projects) and Defence Cyber Chief Mr David Koh, and Deputy President (Academic) and Provost, SIT Professor Loh Han Tong.

Officiating the MOU signing was Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) and Second Minister for Defence Mr Ong Ye Kung, who also announced: (1) the Cyber NSF Scheme, which all full-time national servicemen (NSFs) in cyber vocations will now come under, and (2) the Cyber Specialist Award, a short-term contract which will be offered to selected cyber NSFs who demonstrate the requisite aptitude and skill, and who meet the stringent selection requirements for the award.

Under the first-of-its-kind Cyber NSF Work-Learn Programme, NSFs employed in an operational role will also be sent for academic upgrading at SIT. This will equip NSFs with the necessary skills to better perform their duties.

At the basic level, NSFs will be trained as Cyber Operators and tasked to conduct threat monitoring and assessment. Cyber NSFs will be deployed in a range of operational roles within the cyber domain. These roles are split into 4 broad areas: (1) cybersecurity monitoring, (2) threat assessment and response, (3) vulnerability audit and penetration testing, and (4) malware analysis and cyber forensics.

Those with higher aptitude and skills, and who meet stringent selection requirements, will be offered the opportunity to take up the Cyber Specialist Award, which is a short-term contract on Regular service on top of their full-time NS.

These Cyber Specialists will undergo a work-learn programme with the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and earn professional certifications that will prepare them for more technically demanding cybersecurity jobs in MINDEF and the Singapore Armed Forces. Time will be catered for them to attend training at SIT, where they can receive SIT academic credits in areas such as network security, digital forensics and applied cryptography, upon the completion of their short-term contract with the SAF.

For those who subsequently gain admission to the relevant SIT undergraduate programme, their SIT credits are eligible for credit recognition and they can expect to graduate alongside peers in their cohort who completed their full-time NS ahead of them.

In addition, these Cyber Specialist Award recipients will also have the opportunity to upgrade their skills through internationally-recognised cybersecurity professional courses such as Sysadmin, Audit, Network and Security (SANS) Institute Courses.

According to Minister Ong, the new Cyber NSF Scheme was a meaningful breakthrough which is a marrying of 3 trends: (1) the operational requirements of the Singapore Armed Forces to defend the country better, especially in the area of cyber defence, (2) the rise of a young group that is au fait with cyber defence, which the country can tap and leverage on their expertise, and (3) an evolution of teaching methods in all universities and Institutes of Higher Learning to teach beyond lectures but also through hands-on experience.”

The programme was made possible through close collaboration between MINDEF, the Cyber Security Agency (CSA), SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and SIT.

A pilot batch of participants will enlist for NSF in the second half of 2018. For future intakes, interested pre-enlistees may apply online. Applicants are expected to possess baseline knowledge and skills in cybersecurity. Those with a track record in cybersecurity will be well-suited for the scheme. Applicants will be put through a rigorous selection test designed to test their skills and aptitude in relevant areas such as cryptography, security architecture and application security, as well as psychometric tests and practical problem-solving scenarios.

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