Plugging Singapore’s cyber security skills gap

Some 20 teams of cyber security industry professionals and tertiary students in Singapore pitted their skills against one another in a competition aimed at plugging the cyber security skills gap in the city-state.

Conducted in December 2017, the Ixia Cyber Combat competition saw participants from industries including financial services, technology, government and education take down enemy servers, expose vulnerabilities and win flags, while defending their home ground against enemy attacks.

More importantly, the competition had exposed the participants to a range of new tools and situations that they can take back to their organisations.

The team that won the gruelling 12-hour challenge were from Wizlynx, a Switzerland-based cyber security service provider.

“It was a stressful but fun experience,” said Ang Guo Gen, a Singapore Institute of Technology undergraduate and intern at the Wizlynx. “On the defence side, we were only given a Fortinet firewall and Splunk to do some analysis of our environment. I also looked at the logs to try and understand what was happening, did some tests and made some guesses which turned out to be right.”

On the offensive side of things, Ang, whose team mate was Wizlynx senior security consultant Linh, managed to find all 20 enemy targets that he was supposed to find. “In the end, we came from behind and took the show.”

Ixia Cyber Combat follows efforts by others in the cyber security industry to groom more cyber security talent.

In July 2017, Singtel launched a portal to provide information on career paths and showcase the efforts involved in fending off cyber attacks. Visitors to the portal will also get a chance to test their skills in cyber challenges that will assess their understanding of cyber security terms, concepts and operational principles.

Those who fare well will be invited to Singtel’s Cyber Security Institute to hone their skills in cyber war games conducted on four weekends a year, and get a chance to be mentored by cyber security experts.

According to the Cyber Security Agency, which also organises an annual cyber security exercise for critical sectors such as finance, transport and government, Singapore’s demand for cyber security professionals is expected to grow to from 4,700 in 2015, to 7,200 in 2018 and 9,700 in 2021.

In February 2017, the government-led Committee on the Future Economy called for Singapore to shore up its expertise in data analytics and cyber security as part of efforts to build strong digital capabilities in its economy.

The government has since accepted the committee’s recommendations, and has started recruiting and building cyber security talent through Singapore’s military conscription programme.

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