Singapore, U.S. expand cybersecurity cooperation

Singapore, U.S. expand cybersecurity cooperation

Tom Abke

With reported cyberattacks in Singapore at their highest levels, the island nation is stepping up cooperation with the United States in cybersecurity. The two governments signed a trio of memoranda of understanding (MOU) in August 2021 to enhance collaboration between their financial authorities, cybersecurity agencies and militaries.

The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) reported in July 2021 that 9,080 cyberattack cases were handled by the Singapore Computer Emergency Response Team in 2020, the highest annual total on record. The 154% year-on-year increase in ransomware attacks is particularly concerning, according to the agency, since these deal a serious blow to commerce, mostly affecting small- and medium-size enterprises in industries such as manufacturing, retail and health care.

The U.S. is ranked fourth among Singapore’s trading partners by the World Bank, with nearly U.S. $34.5 billion in annual trade between the countries at pre-pandemic levels.

“Given the growing complexity of cyberattacks and how interconnected the global financial system is, close cooperation is essential to ensure the cyber resilience of our financial systems,” Ravi Menon, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), said in announcing the MOU between his agency and the U.S. Treasury Department in late August.

According to MAS, the agreement aims to enhance cooperation in several finance-related areas: cybersecurity information-sharing including regulations and guidance, incidents and threat intelligence; staff training and study visits to promote cybersecurity cooperation; and competency-building activities such as cross-border cybersecurity exercises.

Meanwhile, the MOU between Singapore’s CSA and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) extends into new areas of collaboration, such as vital technologies and research and development, in addition to increasing information-sharing and fostering cybersecurity exchanges through joint exercises, reported an August 23, 2021, CISA news release.

By harnessing the benefits of digitization, improved cybersecurity between the nations is a “key enabler” for economic progress, CSA chief executive David Koh said.

The military-to-military MOU was signed in late August by, pictured from left, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Commander Adm. John Aquilino, Singaporean Chief of Defence Force Lt. Gen. Melvyn Ong and U.S. Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command. It expands on the governments’ 2015 Enhanced Defense Collaboration Agreement, which institutionalized areas of nontraditional cooperation such as cyber defense and biosecurity.

Singapore’s Ministry of Defence characterized the agreement as promoting collaboration, engagements and information exchange among “trustworthy partners.”

According to the White House, the MOU will “support broad defense cooperation to advance cybersecurity information sharing, exchange of threat indicators, combined cyber training and exercises, and other forms of military-to-military cooperation on cyber issues.”

By strengthening cyber-related connections with Singapore, the three MOUs may help the U.S. bolster its microelectronics logistics network, according to SC Media, a cybersecurity news service. Apart from being a cybersecurity leader, Singapore is also a key player in the semiconductor supply chain, accounting for 19% of the global semiconductor equipment industry.




Tom Abke is a FORUM contributor reporting from Singapore.