Opening Remarks by Mr David Koh, Chief Executive, Cyber Security Agency of Singapore and Commissioner of Cybersecurity at the 2021 International Cybersecurity Innovation Summit "Cybersecurity in Space"

14 Apr 2021



Distinguished Speakers and Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my pleasure to be invited to deliver a Keynote at the 2021 International Cybersecurity Innovation Summit, a timely effort that brings together diverse stakeholders to meet, exchange ideas, and possibly explore new partnerships in the realms of cybersecurity and space.

We witnessed the first man landing on the moon about half a century ago.

This milestone in human history captured the imagination of an entire generation.

Since then, the application of space technologies has grown tremendously.

From a domain that was explored predominantly by a small group of larger countries and bigger industry players and something that was largely experimental, space today is a growing industry involving a wide range of large and small stakeholders and estimated at more than $420 billion US dollars worldwide.

This has also brought about the evolution of many mainstream capabilities with applications in daily life such as the Global Positioning System or GPS, weather prediction, and satellite broadcast.

In fact, these space capabilities are now indispensable to our lives – just imagine having to refer to a printed map to find our ways around a new city or find the best hiking trails, instead of checking Google Maps on our phones!

Thanks to increased accessibility through trends such as miniaturisation and affordable launch systems, there are more new entrants than ever before that is active in this space, pun unintended.

This has paved the way for the “democratisation of space”.

Bigger countries and large multinational corporations that had traditionally dominated space investments given the high barriers to entry and long technology gestation periods, are now a thing of the past.

Space is no longer just accessible to them, but for smaller countries like Singapore, and also commercial start-ups.

Singapore sees space as a strategic sector that we can harness to serve our national priorities.

This includes supporting our aviation and maritime industries, and understanding and mitigating the impacts of climate change on our small island nation.

We plan to support the growth of our local space research and industry ecosystem, with a particular focus on the growing smallsat and satellite services market.

These efforts will be led by Singapore’s national space office, the Office for Space Technology and Industry (OSTIn).

As we look to build on the opportunities, we should not overlook the potential risks that come along with it.

The increasing dependency on space technologies can put us in a precarious position, as these technologies are vulnerable to cyberattacks which could lead to large-scale and catastrophic effects.

And just like the need to ensure robust and resilient cybersecurity for other infrastructures that are fundamental to the digital economy and our way of life, there is a need to mitigate the cybersecurity risks of space applications.

As a small and open economy, Singapore has always recognised the need to stay ahead of global trends and developments, to adapt and position ourselves for the digital world of tomorrow.

We recognise that Governments do not have all the answers. As the saying goes, “To go far, we must go together.”

I am happy to say that Singapore has embraced this philosophy by partnering industries, research institutes, and academia to strengthen our cybersecurity capabilities through innovation.

Efforts to Build Trustworthiness of Cybersecurity Infrastructure

Our National Cybersecurity R&D Programme plays a key role in supporting this effort.

By developing R&D expertise in cybersecurity, coordinating Whole-of-Government priorities and approach, and providing common platform for R&D collaboration among relevant stakeholders both locally and internationally, this has served to improve the trustworthiness of our cyber infrastructures with an emphasis on security, reliability, resiliency and usability.

Singapore will continue to invest in building these capabilities, including on cybersecurity in space.

Our Cybersecurity Industry Call for Innovation is another example of supporting cybersecurity innovation.

Industry providers are encouraged to develop innovative solutions to address specific cybersecurity challenges.

This catalyses the development of innovative cybersecurity and strategic needs with the potential for commercial applications.

As a result, we are seeing a growing vibrant local cybersecurity ecosystem, both in new capabilities and talent.

The sophisticated problems put forth by some of these companies have provided the opportunity to innovate and to push the envelope of cybersecurity development.

Industries that have benefited thus far include those from the Operational Technology, Medical and Maritime sectors that are looking into advanced areas such as active defence in Operational Technology systems, user behavioural data access monitoring, and anomalous detection in autonomous vehicles.

So far, we have not seen anyone coming to us with ideas on space technologies. We hope this will happen sooner rather than later.

Forging New Norms for Space

Singapore recognises that space is today an important part of the global commons.

Space is an enabler for global connectivity and awareness, and can help facilitate the economic, sustainability and security interests of countries worldwide.

Therefore, while it is important to build a collaborative cybersecurity innovation ecosystem through public-private partnerships, it is also crucial for the international community to support a rules-based multilateral order for space, just like we do in the cyberspace.

With the democratisation of space, the space environment has somehow become more congested with more stakeholders involved, often with diverse objectives and varying capabilities.

Although there exist some structures and norms from the international legal regime for space that was drawn up in the 1960s, we may need new rules and norms to keep up with technological developments and new issues, such as space debris, mega constellations that increase the risk of in-orbit collisions, and spectrum interferences, especially as space grows in importance for our economies and societies.

We need the collective effort of the international community, including countries large and small, and commercial enterprises, to come together to share best practices and co-create practical measures.

This will enable us to seize new opportunities in a responsible manner and ensure that space developments are used for the well-being and benefit of all mankind.

Singapore is taking steps to be part of this international conversation. Last year, we participated in the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) as a new member.

Singapore is also an active member of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR). We will continue to play host to, and contribute meaningfully to, important discussions about space in the region and at home.


Our gathering here today shows that we are united by the common vision of harnessing the potential of space to improve the lives of people, create new opportunities for our countries and businesses, to benefit all humankind.

But just as space is boundless, this is an enormous task that no one can achieve independently.

By working together to build global collaborative networks across the public and private sectors, I am confident that we will be able to push the technological frontiers in space while at the same time, fostering security, trust and resilience to create a brighter future for all of us.

I wish all of you a fruitful time at this Summit, and that you may forge many friendships and generate many new ideas. Thank you.