Guest-of-Honour Speech by Mr Tan Kiat How, Minister of State for Ministry of Communications and Information and Ministry of National Development at the Student Volunteer Recognition Programme on 19 Jan 2022

19 Jan 2022

GUEST-OF-HONOUR SPEECH BY MR TAN KIAT HOW, MINISTER-OF-STATE FOR MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION AND MINISTRY OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
AT THE STUDENT VOLUNTEER RECOGNITION PROGRAMME ON 19 JANUARY 2022

AiSP Vice President Sherin Lee
Esteemed Award Winners
Distinguished Guests

Introduction

1. A very good evening to all of you. I am honoured to attend this Award Ceremony to recognise the 97 Student Volunteers for their contributions and hard work in 2021. I would have loved to meet all of you personally this evening, but I am glad to at least have this opportunity to address you in a hybrid format. I would like to thank AiSP and other partners for making this possible.

2. The AiSP and the Cybersecurity Agency of Singapore (CSA) organises the SVRP each year to encourage and recognise students that have committed to voluntary work in the cybersecurity space, through imparting skills, supporting events and demonstrating leadership. Since 2019, the SVRP has recognised close to 250 students. This year, the SVRP also included a new Merit Award to recognise secondary school and JC students for their contributions. All the Award winners had volunteered for at least 30 hours, with the Gold award winners committing at least 150 hours, or close to 3 hours each week. This is a huge commitment as this is on top of your studies and other responsibilities. All of you should be proud of what you have managed to achieve. To each of you, I offer my congratulations and my thanks for your volunteerism.

3. This evening, I want to talk about a relatively simple question that some of you might already be wondering about: What does the future hold for us in cybersecurity? To this, I say: Challenge, Opportunity, and Community.

4. First, professionals in cybersecurity will have no lack of satisfying challenges. Digital technologies advance rapidly, and new areas of exploration and experimentation are constantly emerging. Five years ago, it would be inconceivable that anybody would consider digital money based on a meme of a dog to be a serious medium for investment. Today, cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens are all the rage.

5. Cyber threats are constantly evolving in both scale and sophistication. In the past year alone, you would have heard of several major incidents across the world – SolarWinds, Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack, and more recently, the Log4J vulnerability. Malicious cyber actors are always developing new tactics, techniques, and procedures to exploit vulnerabilities on an ever-expanding array of apps, devices and platforms. We must stand ready when the next big threat strikes.

6. This may seem daunting as defenders must defend flawlessly all the time, but attackers only need to find a single point of weakness to succeed. However, I have observed that cyber professionals seem to relish this challenge. There are always new things to learn, new ways to improve, and new ways to succeed. Never a dull moment in this field.

7. Second, there are significant opportunities to contribute and build something good in cybersecurity, for those who are inclined to seize them.

8. The demand for cybersecurity talent is voracious. In Singapore alone, we have almost doubled the number of cybersecurity professionals from around 6,000 in 2018 to nearly 11,000 in 2020. Even so, we still have not caught up with the great demand for cybersecurity professionals. Many countries also face this problem. An accelerating pace of digitalisation, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, an ever-evolving cyber threat landscape, and a greater likelihood of cyber disruptions causing physical, real-world impact, all point to the need for a bigger and more capable pool of cybersecurity professionals. In fact, in our industry consultations, companies tell us that the shortage of cybersecurity professionals remains the top constraint in organisations’ efforts to meet their security needs.

9. This is why growing a robust cyber talent pipeline is identified as a foundational enabler in our Singapore Cybersecurity Strategy 2021. The development of good talent starts upstream, with the youth in schools such as yourselves. Programmes like SVRP are part of CSA’s efforts under the SG Cyber Youth initiatives. Through SG Cyber Youth, we aim to provide youths with opportunities to explore cybersecurity through activities such as bootcamps, career mentoring, learning journeys.

10. Through these programmes, our aim is to develop a strong pipeline of cybersecurity professionals, and a cybersecurity workforce that is positioned to seize and take advantage of the growing opportunities in the sector.

11. Finally, I want to conclude by saying a few words about the cybersecurity community. The 97 Award Winners we have gathered to recognise this evening are a testament to the community spirit of the cybersecurity fraternity.

12. This very event is testament to that. Take for example, Mr Lee Yi Terng, who is one of our Gold Award winners. He currently leads the Cloud Computing Special Interest Group in Cyber Youth Singapore, a youth-driven cybersecurity community. He also led Cloud Computing sessions in Division Zero – a volunteer-driven cybersecurity community for professionals, practitioners and enthusiasts. Yi Terng’s contributions highlight how open the cybersecurity fraternity is to sharing and learning across age and experiences.

13. I am also heartened by the contributions of our Merit Award winners from the secondary schools and Junior Colleges. Although they have yet to formally embark on their cybersecurity journey, they have made the effort to connect with and contribute to the community. Ms Tay Ru Yi, one of our Merit Award winners, is currently part of the team in Cyber Youth Singapore developing a Learning and Engagement Matrix which aims to prepare and develop the cybersecurity competencies in our youths. I am encouraged by their passion to learn and contribute to the field, and I am looking forward to seeing more Merit Award winners in the years to come.

14. As in all professional sectors, mentorship and support networks go a long way towards creating a vibrant professional community and nurture the future generation of professionals and industry leaders. The cyber professionals in associations like AiSP have also taken time to organise this event and to guide and mentor young students.

15. On behalf of the Government, I want to express my support for the cybersecurity community in its activities. Minister for Communications and Information Mrs Josephine Teo announced the SG Cyber Talent Development Fund last week at the Cybersecurity Awards organised by AiSP and partner associations.. The Fund will support three types of initiatives - events and projects that engage and grow the cybersecurity community, projects that develop and recognise cybersecurity skills, and programmes that offer cybersecurity training and job placement. I encourage you to have a look and consider how CSA can support your activities.

16. As they often say, cybersecurity is a team sport. The Government is committed to work with the private sector, professional associations, schools, students and many others so that we can all be collectively more secure and safer online. We would be happy to hear from your comments or ideas on how we can all work together for a stronger cybersecurity posture for Singapore.

17. I hope that my three observations – Challenge, Opportunity, and Community – have helped shed some light on why you should consider a career in cybersecurity.

18. A career in cybersecurity is meaningful. I would encourage you to explore and consider this option carefully.

19. Once again, my heartiest congratulations to all the award winners. It is well deserved, and I look forward to seeing your future contributions.