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The number of data breach alerts that the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) of Singapore received, tripled in the February-March period compared with the previous two months.

This comes amid a string of potential personal data leaks reported in recent months. Legal and information technology security experts said the increase could have been due to a new data breach notification requirement companies must follow as well as rising cyber-security threats.

As per reports, the PDPC stated that the February-March breach alerts it received involved organisations such as those from the finance, retail and manufacturing sectors. The personal data compromised in those cases included names, e-mail addresses, personal identity numbers, financial details, phone numbers and postal addresses. Experts said the data could be used for attempts to, for instance, take over victims’ online accounts to spread malware or transfer money to hackers.

PDPC added that data breaches are often caused by human error as well as malicious activities such as phishing or cyber-attacks.

Meanwhile, a United States-based cyber risk analytics firm said while it does not have comprehensive data for Singapore, it still recorded at least three data breaches in the first quarter. This is already a third of the at least nine cases it logged for Singapore for the whole of last year.

The biggest case recorded in Singapore for January to March this year was that for a furniture retailer. In that data breach, a hacker group claimed to have stolen the data of more than 300,000 customers.

Other cases reported in the last three months include those that affected third-party vendors of Singtel, Singapore Airlines and the National Trades Union Congress’ Employment and Employability Institute, as well as a breach that hit a local security firm.

The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) said that, for now, the local security firm and Singtel incidents, as well as one affecting e-mail servers have not affected Singapore’s critical information infrastructure, like those in the transport and telecoms sectors.

Also, for Singapore, the ransomware detection number increased by 45% in the second half of last year compared with the first half.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, cybersecurity has risen to the top of both national and international agendas. Government leaders from all over the world said that without cybersecurity there is no real national security. The boom of the digital economy and the digitalisation of businesses and society especially during the COVID-19 pandemic has now put the private sector at the centre of cybersecurity debates. Recent data mismanagements, or the revelations that social media sites compromised the data of millions of their users, highlight the central role that the private sector plays in cybersecurity. Undeniably, corporations are key players in the digital realm whether it is as distributors of malicious software, victims of cyber-attacks, or first responders to security breaches.

A partnership between both public and private sectors can help in trying to boost cyber resiliency policies and programmes. A lot of the technologies coming out are from industries, academes, and civil societies.

Therefore, Mr David Koh from the CSA believes that a multi-stakeholder engagement is an ideal method to improve cyber resilience on a bigger scale. Mr Koh noted that at an intellectual level, everyone understands cyber so everyone must also be committed to trying to find viable solutions.

He also emphasised that cybersecurity is the key factor in achieving an open and secured internet environment that can help boost domestic and international economies. Mr Koh and the CSA view cyber capacity building as a collective effort.

With cyber threats to operational technology, especially industrial control systems, increasing in frequency and sophistication, the Singapore Cyber Security Agency (CSA) announced that it had established the Operational Technology Cybersecurity Expert Panel. The panel will strengthen local cybersecurity capabilities and competencies in the operational technology sector.

Singapore’s operational technology cybersecurity practitioners, operators, researchers and policymakers from the Government, critical information infrastructure (CII) sectors, academia and other operational technology industries will have direct access to the experts. The 11-panel members come from both public and private sectors, locally and internationally.

CSA said the experts will discuss issues ranging from governance policies and processes, evolving operational technologies, emerging trends, capability development, supply chain, threat intelligence information sharing and incident response. They will also recommend best practices to address cybersecurity challenges and gaps in the sector.

During closed-door one-to-one workshops, the experts will share with incident response teams from stakeholders their insights based on their own experience handling global cybersecurity incidents. The panel complements CSA’s operational technology cybersecurity masterplan announced in 2019 to protect Singapore from cyber-attacks on critical sectors like transport and water supply.

The plan aims to grow the talent pool of cybersecurity professionals and facilitate the exchange of information between the public and private sectors. Insights and recommendations from the panel will help shape initiatives under the plan, such as a code of practice and training programmes, said CSA.

The threat of a cyber-attack on Singapore’s critical infrastructure services remains low but the maritime sector has been in the crosshairs of hackers, said the members of an international panel appointed by the CSA.

Reports say that hackers have used increasingly sophisticated tools to target operational technology systems that run critical infrastructure services, such as those in the energy, water and transport sectors. The systems control everything from the electricity grid, traffic light controls, train-signalling systems and even sensors detecting the chemical content in drinking water.

At present, the damage created by such cyber-attacks has not surfaced in Singapore. However, it is important that businesses do not become complacent and should ensure they have an effective incident response or business continuity plan in place, said one tech security expert.

Mr David Koh, the commissioner of Cybersecurity and CSA’s chief executive, said while operational technology systems were traditionally separated from the Internet, increasing digitalisation has led to more IT and operational technology integration. Hence, it is crucial for operational technology systems to be better protected from cyber threats to prevent outages of critical services that could result in serious real-world consequences, said David.

To this end, he added that they are glad to have notable operational technology experts join them in sharing their expertise to develop and strengthen localised capabilities in operational technology cybersecurity, he added.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, from a larger perspective, David also mentioned that a rules-based framework must be implemented when dealing with cybersecurity. Therefore, the United Nations (in general) is an appropriate platform for cyber discussions to take place, given its open and inclusive nature for all 193 member states. By conducting discussions on the forum, UN members can now see the importance of cybersecurity for their respective countries. The broadening of the conversation on cyber resiliency and producing a consensus report from the UN OEWG is a significant achievement.

Accordingly, David said that if the approach in cybersecurity is in the same direction, whether it be for the potential impacts of cyber threats, up to the solutions that can deal with them, countries can expect a positive outcome in terms of strengthening cyber resiliency. Leaders and decision-makers must recognise that cybersecurity is an issue, and they need to work together so everyone can move forward in this journey of full digital transformation.

Enterprise Singapore is collaborating with a venture capital firm in Singapore to launch a new virtual programme that will support aspiring entrepreneurs. Called 500 Ignition Singapore, the initiative assists entrepreneurs to create their start-ups from scratch.

This programme is ideal for those who do not have business experience or may have had experience as small business owners. Entrepreneurs of selected start-ups in the city-state will be mentored through all the steps involved in creating innovative ventures. Start-ups with an innovative idea or technology can search for relevant problem statements to propose solutions to, and access co-development, test-bedding and market opportunities with major organisations.

While the applications for the first cohort of 500 Ignition are already closed, individuals can apply for its second cohort from today until May 21. The 12-week programme includes helping them assemble founding teams, discover and secure potential opportunities, connecting them with an industry expert for mentorship, choosing the right co-founders, and providing them with shared resources to facilitate long-term growth.

The programme will take place in three stages. In the first stage, participants will be divided into teams to learn the best way to gather insights and to craft captivating value propositions for their products and services. The second stage will be about helping start-ups develop a minimum viable product (MVP) that enables them to create a version of a product with enough features to attract early-adopter customers. In the third stage, the teams will learn various components that contribute to the success or failure of a start-up, such as marketing, sales, etc.

The 500 Ignition Singapore programme is currently running in Cambodia and similar programmes will be run across ecosystems with emerging start-up talent. This initiative aims to stimulate new job creation and engage more young generations to be entrepreneurs.

Singapore has been bullish about diversifying its start-up ecosystem. According to the Research Innovation Enterprise 2020 plan, new economic activity in Singapore is being catalysed by R&D investments and the start-up ecosystem is getting increasingly vibrant. Singapore is already home to more than 3,600 technology start-ups and 100 start-up enablers. It ranks first in Asia and 10th in the world for best start-up nations. In the information and communications technology sector, it boasts two unicorns – privately held startup companies valued at over one billion dollars.

In its annual report, Enterprise Singapore indicated a desire to strengthen Singapore’s start-up and innovation ecosystem. Last year, 2000 start-ups gained access to funding, incubation and mentorship. Its investment arm SEEDS Capital co-invested S$ 51 million into 65 start-ups, catalysing S$ 356 million in private investments.

Beyond growing local enterprises, Enterprise Singapore aims to establish Singapore as a leading global hub for start-ups, global trading and infrastructure. Their networks, partnerships and business ecosystem put them in an ideal position to contribute expertise and solutions to the region and beyond. Their position as a hub above the rest also relies on the continued trust the world has in Singapore’s products and services.

In line with their strategy to grow Singapore into a Global-Asia node for technology, innovation and enterprise, the organisation works closely with partners to build an ecosystem in Singapore that is conducive for start-ups to flourish. Many of these partners are global players that provide market access opportunities to start-ups to scale in Asia and beyond.

A senior executive involved in the initiative said the past year has witnessed significant disruption across myriad sectors and hence fresh ideas are needed to meet ever-evolving demands. As a private entity, they are eager to partner with Enterprise Singapore in the endeavour to provide aspiring entrepreneurs with the foundation and mentorship needed to launch a business.

Singapore has now launched its nationwide parcel locker network. The network provides consumers with greater convenience while enhancing the efficiency and sustainability of the urban logistics sector amidst the e-commerce boom.

The network, launched by Minister for Communications and Information Mr S Iswaran, is one of the world’s first open-access nationwide locker networks. It will progressively be available for use by all logistics service providers (LSPs), e-commerce marketplaces, and their customers. This will complement existing doorstep deliveries and expand the options provided to consumers for receiving and returning their purchases while improving fulfilment reliability and delivery productivity of e-commerce marketplaces and LSPs.

Online shoppers will soon be able to conveniently collect their purchases anytime from more than 200 easily accessible lockers located in Community Clubs (CCs), Housing Development Board (HDB) estates, and transport hubs. The first batch of more than 200 Pick lockers located islandwide have been deployed and will progressively be available for use. By the end of the year, the network is targeted to hit 1,000 parcel lockers, one year ahead of schedule. Most residents will also be able to access a locker via an estimated five minutes’ walk from their home.

The network is a subsidiary of The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and has partnered with an e-commerce marketplace platform to enable consumers to select the network as an option for collecting their online purchases. The network is also partnering with eight LSPs to enable seamless parcel drop-offs and returns through its lockers.

A locker station typically comprises between 40 to 50 lockers in six sizes, from extra small, which can contain one ladies’ shoebox; to extra-large, which can contain a 21-inch medium-sized suitcase or luggage. Security measures include CCTV cameras to deter vandalism or theft. There are also sensors embedded in every locker compartment to verify that the process of deposit or retrieval has been completed. Consumers will be able to return parcels at selected lockers at CCs and HDB blocks.

The network will also help to minimise the impact on the environment, by reducing repeat trips and fuel consumption by LSPs from failed deliveries. The network is expected to reduce the distance travelled for delivery purposes by 44% daily and Singapore’s CO2 emissions by up to 50 tonnes a year.

The deployment of this nationwide parcel locker infrastructure is a multi-agency effort with strong support from key partner agencies and Ministries. The IMDA and the network are working with the HDB, Land Transport Authority, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of National Development, Ministry of Transport, People’s Association, Singapore Civil Defence Force and the Singapore Police Force on processes such as the siting of lockers and the co-development of safety and security guidelines, to ensure the smooth implementation of the network.

Before the installation of its lockers, the tech developer conducted a residents’ engagement campaign to gather feedback from residents. More than 12,000 residents have responded, with 97% of residents indicating that the lockers situated in their neighbourhood will give them greater convenience and flexibility, and 96% saying that they will use the locker stations.

The developers said that with the network, consumers can now enjoy convenient and secure 24/7 access to their online purchases. Consumers may collect their e-commerce purchases in their neighbourhoods or as part of their daily commute and will no longer have to schedule their lives around collection times.

The network will continue to grow the number of their lockers to give consumers an even better online shopping experience and will continue working with their partners to introduce even more innovative use-cases for Singapore’s consumers in the coming months.

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.

A Canadian contact tracing technology company was selected through Singapore’s crowdsourcing initiative called the Open Innovation Platform to develop a contact tracing system in workplaces as part of the country’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts. The Building and Construction Authority put out a challenge for a tech solution that can manage COVID-19 contact tracing at construction sites, among other things.

Identifying contacts and ensuring they do not interact with others is critical to protect communities from further spread. If communities are unable to effectively isolate patients and ensure contacts can separate themselves from others, rapid community spread of COVID-19 is likely to increase to the point that strict mitigation strategies will again be needed to contain the virus. In workplaces, if a worker is found to be infected with COVID-19 at a construction site, the entire site may have to be shut down to contain the spread of the virus.

But with a contact tracing device and system for workers, shutting down the entire site may not be necessary anymore because the individuals who had close contact with the infected worker can efficiently be identified and isolated from other workers.

As per reports, the tech company’s managing director said that without such a system, companies may have to wait for quarantine orders and the like from the authorities to be issued, and firms may be in limbo for about a week. But with this system, if a COVID-19 positive case is found, companies can decide in a day on what immediate steps to take.

The device works by exchanging Bluetooth signals between devices to figure out who a worker has been in close contact with, like how the Government’s TraceTogether app and token work. But with this device, the employers themselves will be able to quickly access the data. The device can also warn workers if they are too close to other workers – less than 1m – by vibrating and emitting an alarm, so that even if the worksite is noisy, the workers are alerted.

The new device has an additional feature – an LED light that will flash to alert workers if they are too close to other workers. This can be useful if workers must work at night. The device had to be resistant to dust and water so that it would not malfunction easily in a construction environment. To protect workers’ privacy, the device does not track their location and does not store personal details such as their names or photos.

A prototype of the device initially tested was slightly smaller than a feature phone and could be attached to a safety helmet. The tech company is now testing a smaller version of the device, following feedback calling for a smaller version. Further tests for the devices are in the works, and there are plans beyond contact tracing to use them to alert workers if they approach restricted equipment or dangerous zones.

The device has received interest from other construction companies in Singapore, as well as from Malaysia, Japan and the Philippines. A major semiconductor manufacturer has already signed a global deal with the company.

The device was recognised by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat while presenting Singapore’s national budget for the financial year April 2021 to March 2022.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, the new national budget is structured to equip Singapore workers with deep and future-ready capabilities. As part of the budget, the Open Innovation Platform facilitates the matching of problems faced by companies and public agencies with solution providers, and co-funds prototyping and deployment. Through the Open Innovation Platform, the Building and Construction Authority was matched with the aforementioned contact tracing system to develop solutions for the safe reopening of worksites.

Singaporean firms and public agencies can soon find solutions to technology adoption challenges they face in going digital easier and efficiently, with new features from the Open Innovation Platform (OIP), managed by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

The OIP will soon have a new search function on its website, called the Discovery Engine that makes the searching and matching of Problem Solvers to Problem Owners easier, through automated recommendations by analysing problem statements and recommending solvers with relevant experience. This will increase the accessibility of innovation to more enterprises.

The second feature is called the Digital Bench that speeds up Proof-of-Concept (POC) development through a virtual sandbox and testing environment. It will provide direct access to digital tools, reusable software assets, testbed environments and community partners – to support the testing and development of POCs. By providing a digital testbed hosted on cloud infrastructure, the OIP will fast-track development and the eventual commercialisation of innovative solutions.

The OIP is a virtual crowd-sourcing platform that connects and matches real business challenges or digitalisation opportunities of Problem Owners to Problem Solvers. IMDA will launch Innovation Calls on the OIP every few months. Each Innovation Call comprises a set of challenges from different Problem Owners from different sectors. Each challenge is accompanied by prize monies for the best solutions that are selected based on the criteria of Problem Owners. IMDA guides, supports and offers technical expertise to organisations through this.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, the OIP aims to achieve the following:

  • Provide Singapore-based companies and sectors with access to multi-disciplinary talent, expertise, and technology to accelerate their digitalisation efforts,
  • Provide Singapore ICM companies with access to regional business needs and opportunities to co-create, develop and bring to market exportable and innovative solutions, and
  • Catalyse innovation capacity by anchoring and developing a vibrant community of problem owners and solvers in Singapore.

With the Discovery Engine, the matching can be done faster to shortlist potential solutions. An organisation can key in the details of its tech problem in the Discovery Engine on the OIP site to search for potential solutions. The search results for solutions are ranked, based on factors such as whether the solutions have been used for similar problems previously. IMDA said this means the engine will reduce the need for evaluating submissions by solution providers.

But if there are no current solutions relevant to the problem, the organisation searching will be prompted to go through a guided process, and IMDA will help the organisation better define its problem statement. The problem is later opened to OIP’s pool of tech solution providers to submit proposals. IMDA will also look out for and curate potential matches for the problem statement.

Meanwhile, the Digital Bench is expected to shorten the development of proofs of concepts from months to weeks. The Digital Bench is expected to include tools that can, for example, help tech companies monitor different components of a software being built, integrate them, and deliver a new version of the software. Another set of tools can scan the code of prototype software so that any issues, such as bad code that could result in a security breach, can be identified. IMDA said the Digital Bench gives solution providers a testing environment so they can quickly prototype and commercialise their solutions.

Currently, when an organisation with a problem is matched with a tech solution provider on OIP, a considerable amount of time is spent preparing for the prototyping environment, acquiring data sets, or getting a software development platform ready for testing. But with the Digital Bench, software such as open-source development tool kits and data sets will be readily available, IMDA said. Solution providers can also offer software that can be reused by other providers for subsequent projects, which can speed up the prototyping process.

Singapore, 27 April 2021 – Singtel has accelerated its 5G push, deploying hundreds of 5G Standalone (SA) sites across the island in areas such as Orchard Road, the Central Business District, Harbourfront and Sentosa. It is also progressively expanding its 5G in-building coverage which began with VivoCity to more indoor sites, starting with Ngee Ann City and selected Singtel Shops across Singapore. The 5G SA sites run on 3.5GHz spectrum, enabling Singtel to deliver ultra-fast speeds and swifter response times.

In preparation for 5G SA commercial launch, Singtel will begin issuing 5G SA compatible SIM cards1 to customers from today. Capable of supporting faster speeds, lower latency rates and offering enhanced authentication and encryption, Singtel’s new 5G SIM will ensure customers have a seamless and secure 5G experience.

Ms Anna Yip, Chief Executive Officer, Consumer Singapore, Singtel, said, “We are ready to usher in a new era of connectivity with 5G SA and introduce our customers to the transformational benefits of blazing fast speeds and ultra-responsive connections which will elevate their everyday experiences. Our engineers are working in earnest with key handset manufacturers to complete testing and prepare the next-generation network for commercial launch. As our 5G network gains momentum and evolves, we invite our customers to mark an exciting 5G milestone with us and upgrade to our new 5G SIM cards to future proof and enhance their mobile experience.”

(Photo: RENDY ARYANTO/VVS.sg)

To deliver 5G SA’s ultra-fast speeds and connections, Singtel has upgraded its 5G radio access network with advanced radio technologies to connect to a cloud-native standalone 5G core network, enabling it to run 5G independently. The network will soon offer network slicing capabilities that allow for the dynamic distribution and optimisation of network resources to support a wide range of applications. Singtel will intensify its 5G SA deployment across the island in the coming months as handset manufacturers progressively roll out 5G SA software updates for existing 5G handsets and launch more 5G SA compatible models in Singapore later this year.

From today, new and re-contracting customers who opt for a 5G Now add-on or 5G XO Plus plans2 will receive Singtel’s new 5G SIM card for free (U.P. S$37.45) until 31 May 2021. Existing customers with eligible plans3 can switch out their current SIM cards at no extra charge at all Singtel Shops, Singtel Exclusive Retailers, 24/7 unmanned store Singtel UNBOXED (now located at Plaza Singapura) and Singtel UNBOXED Lite multi-media kiosks at Tong Building on Orchard Road.

Since last September, Singtel has been operating Singapore’s fastest 5G NSA network under a market trial, offering 5G speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps. This has seen Singtel extend its 5G coverage indoors and boost its island-wide coverage. Singtel customers enjoy the benefits of 5G with first-of-its-kind 5G XO Plus mobile plans, replete with innovative applications such as augmented reality books (Bookful), virtual reality live music (MelodyVR) and data-free gaming (RiotGO).

All consumers in Singapore can get a taste of ultra-fast 5G speeds at Singtel’s 5G experience zones and visit singtel.com/5G to find out more about Singtel 5G.

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ABOUT SINGTEL

Singtel is Asia’s leading communications technology group, providing a portfolio of services from next- generation communication, technology services to infotainment to both consumers and businesses. For consumers, Singtel delivers a complete and integrated suite of services, including mobile, broadband and TV. For businesses, Singtel offers a complementary array of workforce mobility solutions, data hosting, cloud, network infrastructure, analytics and cyber-security capabilities. The Group has presence in Asia, Australia and Africa and reaches over 700 million mobile customers in 21 countries. Its infrastructure and technology services for businesses span 21 countries, with more than 428 direct points of presence in 362 cities.

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1 All mobile services continue to be supported on existing 4G SIM cards
2 XO Plus 68 plans and above
3 XO Plus 68 plans and above

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