Friday 13 December 2013

Wanted: Cybersecurity experts, data analysts

Not enough people want such jobs but Govt stepping up efforts to plug shortage: Yaacob
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 12 Dec 2013

SINGAPORE is short of cybersecurity experts, a gap made even more acute by the recent hacking of government websites.

But the Government is moving to plug the shortage by giving more scholarships for such degrees and diplomas, and getting tertiary institutions to include cybersecurity in the curriculum and have it as a specialist track in degree programmes.

But a tough-to-crack problem is that "young people do not find the job sexy", said Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim.

"A young IT (information technology) grad wants to go into banking, finance, sales and marketing. He doesn't want to be at the back end," he said at a media interview last week when he addressed recent infocomms-related incidents as well as Malay/Muslim issues.

To worsen matters, the proportion of IT security specialists is shrinking even as demand keeps growing. Latest official figures show Singapore had 1,200 IT security specialists last year. This is 0.8 per cent of the 144,300 infocomm workers, which is fewer than the 1,500 or 1 per cent a year earlier.

As a result, vacancies grew to 300 last year compared with 90 the previous year.

The shortage is set to grow as the local cybersecurity market, estimated at $63.7 billion in 2011, is expected to nearly double to about $120 billion by 2017. At the same time, global demand for these professionals is rising at around 11 per cent a year, research firm Frost & Sullivan said.

Its 2013 Global Information Security Workforce Study estimates the Asia-Pacific region has 981,000 such professionals and will need 98,000 more by next year.

In Singapore, the Government is trying to ease the shortage by giving more scholarships for infocomm security studies.

This year, 14 of the 70 scholarships from the Infocomm Development Authority are for such studies - 20 per cent compared with 15 per cent in 2009.

Dr Yaacob noted that banks cannot find enough Singaporeans to secure their systems against cyberthreats.

IT security firms like e-Cop said only one or two out of 10 job applicants are Singaporeans with the desired skills, despite these experts being paid 10 per cent to 20 per cent more than other infocomm professionals. As a result, e-Cop hires people with an infocomm background and trains them in cybersecurity, said its general manager Edwin Lim.

e-Cop manages the Government's Cyber Watch Centre, which monitors critical public-sector IT installations and looks out for threats such as hacking.

Dr Yaacob is confident a new five-year Cybersecurity Masterplan, launched in July before the spate of hacking incidents, will strengthen the resilience of Singapore's infocomm infrastructure against threats.

But awareness of cyberthreats is growing. Some, like polytechnic student Yu Peng Fei, have been prompted to study information security over, say, business informatics. "Finding software loopholes energises me," said the 17-year-old, who holds an IDA scholarship.

Dr Yaacob also cited data analytics as another area in demand. By 2017, this skill in crunching and making sense of data is expected to add $1 billion to the economy.

The Government wants to develop 2,500 such experts in five years.

As for the outages at two telcos this year, Dr Yaacob said a new audit framework will regularly review the resiliency of all telcos' mobile networks.

In January, M1's mobile network failed because of shoddy electrical works, while a fire in October damaged a SingTel Internet exchange.

But the minister cautioned that with an ageing and more complex telecommunications network, service disruptions may still happen from isolated hardware or software failure, or human error.


I can never give you 100 per cent assurance that nothing else will happen because the system is becoming more complex. There's increasing demand for mobility, data on the go. Our ability to recover is the important thing. But if we can prevent it (disruptions) as much as possible, we will do so.

- Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, when asked about M1's 71-hour mobile network failure in January and the SingTel Internet fire in October. He said a new audit framework will review the resiliency of the telcos' mobile networks

No lack of Malay/Muslim candidates for PAP: Yaacob
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 12 Dec 2013

THERE is no lack of bright young Malay/Muslim Singaporeans who can be fielded as People's Action Party (PAP) candidates in the next general election, said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim.

But he is concerned about their relative lack of community experience, compared to previous generations who grew up in a society that needed much help.

As he was among the few in his kampung to enter university, others would ask him to help with schoolwork, said Dr Yaacob, 58, a former structural engineer.

But society has since progressed and basic needs are looked after, he noted. "Some (candidates) have never been to a Meet-the-People Session," Dr Yaacob said in an interview with the media last week.

"Some of them have not done Malay-related community work. So I said, 'Do you want to be a volunteer at Mendaki?'"

It is important that potential candidates feel for the Malay/Muslim community, said Dr Yaacob, whose political career spans 16 years.

This is on top of being comfortable in the public eye and in meeting people, and having the interest to probe and understand policy issues and debate them in Parliament.

He said: "You need to get your feet wet and understand what the community is all about. If you don't feel for the community and you don't understand their aspirations, how are you going to do your job?"

One community aspiration raised of late is the desire of Muslim women to be allowed to wear the hijab, or Muslim headscarf, in some occupations that do not permit it, like the police force and nursing.

Dr Yaacob said he and other Malay/Muslim MPs have met hospital officials to understand the reasons - such as hygiene - for barring nurses from donning the hijab.

They had also raised the nurses' feedback with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after the 2011 General Election but recognised the Government's concerns about other communities' reactions to the issue.

At the PAP convention on Sunday, Mr Lee spoke about maintaining a "Singaporean Singapore" - where every group is free to practise their religion but they must commit to accommodate the common space without which Singapore would be weakened.

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