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Singapore Unveils Licensing Framework for Cybersecurity Service Providers

The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) has announced the launch of its licensing framework for cybersecurity service providers under Part 5 of the Cybersecurity Act (CS Act). The licensing framework took effect on 11 April, along with Part 5 of the CS Act and the Second Schedule to the CS Act.

The framework aims to better safeguard consumers’ interests and address the information asymmetry between consumers and cybersecurity service providers. The regulatory regime is also envisaged to improve service providers’ standards and standing over time. According to a press release, CSA will licence two types of cybersecurity service providers, namely those providing penetration testing and managed security operations centre (SOC) monitoring services.

These two services are prioritised because service providers performing such services can have significant access to clients’ computer systems and sensitive information. If that access is abused, the client’s operations could be disrupted. Additionally, these services are already widely available and adopted in the market, and hence could have a significant impact on the overall cybersecurity landscape.

Under the new framework, existing cybersecurity service providers who are already engaged in the business of providing either or both licensable cybersecurity services will be given six months (i.e. by 11 October 2022) to apply for a license. The release stated that cybersecurity service providers who do not apply for a licence in time will have to cease the provision of licensable cybersecurity services until a licence is obtained. The licence is valid for two years and the licence fees for individuals and businesses are $500 and $1,000 respectively. A one-time 50% waiver of the licence fees will be granted for all licence applications that are lodged within the first twelve months to support businesses due to the impact of COVID-19.

CSA sought industry feedback on the proposed licence conditions and draft subsidiary legislation through a four-week consultation process from 20 September to 18 October 2021. A total of 29 responses were received from a mix of local and foreign industry players, industry associations, as well as members of the public. The feedback was considered when finalising the licensing framework, the release added.

CSA has set up the Cybersecurity Services Regulation Office (CSRO) to administer the licensing framework and facilitate liaisons with the industry and wider public on all licensing-related matters. The functions of the CSRO include enforcing the licensing framework, for example managing licensing processes, and imposing and enforcing licence conditions. It will also respond to queries and feedback from licensees, businesses, and the public. It will develop and share resources on licensable cybersecurity services with consumers such as the list of licensees.

Earlier this month, CSA launched a cybersecurity certification programme to help enterprises put in place the proper cybersecurity measures appropriate to their cyber risk profiles. As OpenGov Asia reported, the marks certify the cybersecurity measures adopted at the organisation level and not the cybersecurity of specific products or services. For companies that are at the beginning of their digitalisation journey, CSA recommended the Cyber Essentials mark. If most business operations are conducted digitally, it recommended the Cyber Trust mark. The programme will help customers identify which companies have put in place strong cybersecurity measures and what steps they have taken to prevent cyber-attacks, such as testing out various scenarios and preparing their business continuity plan.

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