Progress

Cyberattacks and deepfakes? Ng Eng Hen and Josephine Teo are on the scene.

Malware, DDoS attacks, cyber scams, deepfakes, phishing and data leaks — these were not common terms a decade ago. 

“Now they cease to shock us,” said Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen last week (Jul 18). 

“We accept them as part and parcel of the digital ecosystem that prioritises connectivity first and foremost.” 

Indeed, these days the world knows about the persistent problem of cyber scams. We know also that deepfakes are not just entertainment but have sinister purposes behind them, where malicious people want to confuse us as to what is real and what isn’t.     

However, Minister Ng is here to tamp down on these international digital threats.  

He formally launched the ADMM (ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting) Cybersecurity and Information Centre of Excellence (ACICE) this Tuesday. From its Singapore base at Changi, ACICE assembles ASEAN’s cyberdefense capabilities, leading to a more cybersecure Singapore. 

ACICE combines resources for a more cybersecure Singapore  

ACICE’s goals are fourfold, early warning about, and transnational responses to, digital threats, information-sharing and forming laws about “the rules of the road” for cyberspace.  

All these will protect Singaporeans.  

ACICE’s early warning system can disrupt cyberattack campaigns. This prevents a situation like the April-May 2022 month-long ransomware attack on Costa Rica’s government sites and services, where a national emergency was declared and citizens could not access essential government services. 

Additionally, when international cybersecurity incidents occur — think undersea internet cables being disrupted — ACICE’s transnational responses framework lets ASEAN countries resolve the problem together. The information-sharing goal of ACICE will help here too, where ASEAN countries share information on the multinational menace of malware. 

“To date, the Information Sharing Platform has published more than ten thousand indicators of compromise and provided actionable threat intelligence against potential threats and malware,” said Minister Ng on how ACICE has kept Singaporeans shielded. 

These three goals lead to a fourth. 

Source: MINDEF 

“Through shared information, collective assessment of and response to threats, ACICE hopes to forge a consensus on the ‘rules of the road’, that should govern the digital domain,” said Minister Ng. 

In other words, Singaporeans can look forward to a set of virtual safety barriers and guardrails when travelling cyberspace — and can count on netizens elsewhere respecting those as well. 

Deepfakes and the PDPA 

Meanwhile, Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo is also on the cyber-defence scene locally.  

Her Ministry’s Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) is holding open consultations on how best to prevent our personal data being used to train AI models and generate deepfakes. 

“The PDPC recognises the new concerns arising from the use of personal data in generative AI. For instance, the use of publicly available personal data to train large models, to produce synthetic media or ‘deepfakes’,” said Minister Teo when opening Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Week on the same day as ACICE’s launch. 

So those Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) forms at work? They will become more understandable, and feature added explanations for consumers signing them. 

“To promote transparency, there will be guidance on explanations that should be provided before seeking consent from consumers who are providing personal data for use in an AI system,” said Minister Teo. 

Source: Josephine Teo / Facebook 

“The Guidelines also encourage AI solution providers to support their clients in their compliance with the PDPA. This can include designing systems such that it is easy to extract information clients need for providing their explanations,” she added. 

This focus on personal data protection safeguards Singaporeans even while technology companies innovate. Similarly, we also encourage companies to adopt privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs) when using consumer data. 

So, there might indeed be constant, criminal threats online. Efforts like ACICE and a forward-looking PDPA, though, will keep cyberspace as a safe place of opportunity.