Sunday, 27 Sep 2020

Attacks through cyberspace by external players more common now: Chan Chun Sing

SINGAPORE – With cyber attacks by external players becoming the norm, Singapore has to strengthen its social and psychological defences to counter digital threats, which are just as serious as traditional threats.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing made the point in a speech on Friday (Feb 15), adding that enemies can use digital means to attack Singapore, by destroying the economy, tearing the social fabric and targeting Singapore’s fundamental beliefs and commitments.

He said cyberspace provides a new, easy and affordable channel, allowing for the spread of new content to masses at far greater speed, but the “impact of messages or content sharing through the ubiquitous smartphone must never be underestimated”.

Mr Chan was speaking at the Asia Pacific Programme for Senior Military Officers Alumni Distinguished Speakers’ Lecture, on how Total Defence for Singapore has evolved over the years since its introduction in 1984.

Digital defence was added as the sixth pillar in the Total Defence concept on Friday, joining the other five pillars: military defence, civil defence, economic defence, social defence and psychological defence.

In his speech, Mr Chan said threats are becoming increasingly sophisticated, complex and multifaceted, and external players can use economic, cultural, informational or diplomatic means to secure their interests.

“They can also come in the form of incentives, especially with the promise of short-term returns.”

“They can come in the form of threats, to make us afraid or to make us waver.”

“Yet at other times, they can take the form of dividing and trying to divide Singaporeans and our society to the benefit of the foreign players,” he added.

The Government on Tuesday said that there was a “curious” spike in online comments critical of Singapore on social media when the dispute with Malaysia over maritime and airspace issues late last year was top news.

The posts were made using “essentially” anonymous accounts.

Mr Chan said managing the resultant challenges to societal cohesion and stability will become even more critical, but it is not practical for Singapore to shut its doors.

“That is not the way we will defend ourselves… We will learn to operate in this new terrain, navigate this new terrain, and leverage this new terrain for our own defences.”

“However, we need to be vigilant, watchful, but never fearful,” said Mr Chan.

“Thus, social and psychological defences have become even more critical at this juncture of our history.”

Mr Chan was speaking on Total Defence Day, which remembers the Japanese Occupation.

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