#WorkinginCSA: Keeping the Lights On and Protecting Singapore’s Cyberspace

02 Aug 2022

Tong Xiao Xin is a Systems Engineer with the Cyber Threat Discovery team at the National Cyber Threat Monitoring Centre (NCTMC). She is involved in day-to-day operations that are focused on discovering cyber threats and evaluating technology to enhance NCTMC operations.

1. What sparked your interest in cybersecurity?

I was first introduced to cybersecurity during my time in Nanyang Technological University while studying for a degree in Computer Engineering, amid the growing popularity of the Information Technology sector. With the accelerated pace of digitalisation, I learned the importance of cybersecurity, and how essential it is to protect enterprises against cyber threats. Through my university coursework, I also became intrigued by how easily malicious actors could exploit anyone who did not practise good cyber hygiene. The courses, such as Computer Security, opened my eyes and drew me into the wonders of cybersecurity, which covers a wide range of disciplines – both technical and soft skills. Armed with that curiosity, I was inspired to join the cybersecurity industry.

2. Can you share more about your role as a Systems Engineer with the National Cyber Threat Monitoring Centre (NCTMC), and your work as a member of the Cyber Threat Discovery (CTD) team?

I am part of the team that is responsible for operating the national Security Operations Centre (SOC) under NCTMC, helping to formulate the structure and underlying tasks required to support our operations. 

My role involves understanding active cyber threats such as campaigns and state-sponsored groups, discovering cyber threats of national significance through triaging intelligence in both curated reports and unstructured formats, and to correlate against network telemetry. The information and recommendations such as mitigation controls will then be disseminated to forewarn stakeholders, such as critical sectors, so that they can enhance their cybersecurity posture against the threats. Additionally, we also proactively look into ways to enhance our existing SOC processes and capabilities to improve our cyber threat detection capabilities and day-to-day operations.

3. What is the most memorable experience you’ve had with CSA so far?

During the Covid-19 circuit breaker lockdown period in 2020, work from home was the default arrangement for all non-essential services. As part of the operations cluster, we were considered an essential service. Officers in my division were required to alternate between working in office and home on rotational shifts to support our operations while adhering to MOH guidelines. This ingrained a sense of duty in me and allowed me to better appreciate the importance of our work here in CSA, making it a rewarding experience. 

Furthermore, the short transition time to work-from-home arrangement proved a challenge to many. I recall being part of the team tasked to devise a proposal to facilitate the division’s shift to remote working. Teamwork and communication were key as we coordinated and developed the plan to make it happen at short notice. It was an unforgettable experience with the entire division united as one and working closely together.

4. What is your advice to those looking to work in the cybersecurity industry?

Never be afraid to try. The cybersecurity domain is vast and dynamic; you do not know what you will face tomorrow. With the ever-changing cyber landscape, there will always be new areas of exposure to experience and learn from. With so many domains to explore in cybersecurity, it is important to have the interest and mindset to continuously learn and improve. You must stay curious and step out of your comfort zone to remain relevant and to keep pace with the changing environment. 

5. How do you unwind from work?

I love to travel and make it a point to do so yearly. One of my favourite quotes is “Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport”. I believe that travelling broadens one’s perspective, challenges us to leave our comfort zone, and allows us to explore and adapt to new surroundings and embrace adventures along the way. Immersing in nature brings me comfort and peace, and helps me to unwind from the bustling city. 

Besides travelling, I also enjoy “food hunting” with my friends or catching up on variety shows/dramas to relax at home.