29 Jun 2019

OPENING REMARKS BY DR JANIL PUTHUCHEARY, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE, MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION, AND SMS-IN-CHARGE OF CYBERSECURITY AT THE YOUTH CYBER EXPLORATION PROGRAMME (YCEP) CENTRAL CAPTURE-THE-FLAG COMPETITION 

            A very good morning to all, and thank you for joining us here today.

2          Last year, CSA started the YCEP with Singapore Polytechnic.  The four-day cybersecurity boot camp held in June attracted about 100 secondary school participants, almost double what was intended. I think it is telling as to the amount of interest that we have from our students and education faculties. This year, all five local polytechnics have come on board, and about 400 students from over 30 secondary schools have taken part to learn about the tools and technologies in cybersecurity. The top 60 students from these boot camps are here today to compete in the inaugural YCEP Central CTF Competition.

Cybersecurity – an enabler for Smart Nation, and an area of economic opportunity

3          People often do not realise the extent to which cybersecurity skillsets, capabilities and ambition are now becoming part of our schools’ environment. It is testament to the good work of both the educators as well as the industry professionals who are engaged in this space to explain what is possible for our youths, and for the future. It suggests that people are starting to understand that there are many benefits possible for our Smart Nation ambition. But there will be trade-offs. As we get engaged in this ambition and our Smart Nation journey, there are risks and threats associated with cybersecurity. However, this also means that cybersecurity professionals will have exciting jobs and economic opportunities for some time—especially those who are able to demonstrate skills, the ability to operate professionally and engage in innovative approaches at both the individual and company levels. These are the building blocks for a strong cybersecurity ecosystem, and to engender trust in Singapore’s digital infrastructure.

Strengthening our future cybersecurity talent pipeline

4          This cannot be done without the talent and professionals like you. We need a national pool of skilled cybersecurity talent. Digital natives like you, who grew up with the Internet at your fingertips, are well placed to participate and lead the next leg of Singapore’s digital transformation journey. Those of us who are not the digital natives, are hoping that you will help to secure the cyberspace so that we can continue enjoy the products and services of our Smart Nation.

5          For most end users, cybersecurity may not seem like a complicated issue – update your software when your notification comes, download your antivirus software, avoid clicking on phishing emails, and to use 2-Factor Authentication. CSA, IMDA and NLB collaborate with companies and schools to raise cyber awareness, and educate our youth on good cybersecurity practices from an early age. But it is not just about raising awareness. It requires more active, forward leaning efforts, and that is why we have added Digital Defence as the sixth pillar of Total Defence, to encourage everyone to be secure, alert and responsible online. It is also a recognition that we require people who are active participants on the frontline in cybersecurity and cyber defence.

6          Cybersecurity is a dynamic and contested space, and the reality is that cyber threats continue to grow in scale and sophistication. As our Smart Nation ambition develops and comes to fruition, the payoff for the attacker and the value for taking us down successfully grows, so we are increasingly becoming a target. The attackers are well-resourced determined and have every incentive to get past our cyber defences—whether they are criminal groups attempting to disrupt our systems, or steal our information, or for other types of geo-political reasons. The cyber-attack on SingHealth last year was a stark reminder that Singapore is the crosshairs of advanced, and persistent threat actors. The tools that they have access to are only going to grow in capability. They will also have access to new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and quantum computing when it emerges. These tools will be deployable by the adversaries as well as the defenders, and what that means is that we need new strategies to deal with new vulnerabilities.

7          That is why we need the best and brightest cybersecurity professionals to outthink, and outsmart these adversaries. I hope you have realised that apart from your service to the public and to the nation, cybersecurity offers many rich, and diverse career paths, and hopefully an area that you find inspiration and fulfilment from. If you enjoy thinking about the big picture, perhaps you may choose to be a Security Architect, and design safe and secure systems for organisations. You could be a cyber-detective, and investigate cyber-attacks as a Digital Forensics expert. Or, if you enjoy thinking from the adversary’s perspective, you could opt to become an Ethical or ‘White Hat’ hacker – trying to penetrate our systems demonstrating vulnerabilities, or even thinking through the scenarios under which they may operate. We will also need cybersecurity leadership as you grow into this profession, such as Chief Information Security Officers and senior cybersecurity professionals who can drive, innovate and inspire the next generation.

8          Initiatives such as the YCEP give you a flavour of what the cybersecurity profession involves. Today’s competition will offer a “sampler” of some of the exciting roles in the industry, and also allows the industry professionals to see the kind of talent and ambition in our secondary school students. You will take on the role of security consultants, and work together in teams, to help a hypothetical leading global AI company ascertain if their servers are secure or vulnerable to data breaches. You will be given cybersecurity-related challenges that will test your knowledge in areas such as cryptography, database security, and web vulnerabilities. Like any professional activity, you will also practice soft skills such as working in teams, demonstrating leadership, effective communication, problem-solving and creativity, which are just as important as the hard skills.

9          You have done well to be here and I hope that this is just the beginning of your journey in cybersecurity. Over the next few months, CSA will be enhancing and rolling out new initiatives, to encourage more of our youths to explore cybersecurity as a future career. CSA has partnered with Cisco Networking Academy, to provide all YCEP participants with three months of online learning. Those of you here today will also receive more than $100 worth of credits, for Amazon’s AWS Educate academic gateway. This is the last weekend of your school holidays, and I hope you take the opportunity to have fun today before you go back to school on Monday.

10          I would like to conclude by thanking the organisations that have come on board to support this year’s competition. This includes our five local polytechnics, Cisco, Amazon, and our home-grown start-up, The Cyber Assembly. This programme would not be possible without your participation, generous support as well as your mentoring and guidance for our secondary school students, demonstrating to them what a career in cybersecurity would look like and the professional development opportunities that will be available. Please continue to participate in the ecosystem with our cybersecurity professionals, like the CSA, and I look forward to many fruitful partnerships with you in the future. To the students who are here today, I hope that at some point in the future, I will be in a position to welcome you as some of our staff.

11     Thank you.


Additional Materials: 
Annex A - Background Information on YCEP and CTF Competition [305kb]
Annex B - Quotes from participating polytechnics [289kb]