Friday 27 February 2015

Singtel opens centre to fight cyber breaches

It allows security firm FireEye to highlight suspicious activity on the telco's network
By Grace Chng, Senior Correspondent, The Straits Times, 26 Feb 2015

SINGTEL has set up an advanced security operations centre (ASOC) that can track, identify and quickly stop online breaches.

The centre, set up in collaboration with leading global cyber security firm FireEye, aims to equip organisations with rock-solid cyber defences.

It will also offer its customers help to prevent advanced persistent threat (APT), one of the most malicious pieces of software yet developed.

The move is timely, given the increased frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks, said Mr Bill Chang, Singtel's chief executive of group enterprise.

The first South-east Asian cyber threat report, produced by the telco and FireEye, found that 23 per cent of their customers here were exposed to APT attacks from July to December last year.

Attackers want to steal intellectual property and insider information from leading companies, said the report, released yesterday.

It added that the attackers are also after intelligence on rival governments which have long-running political disputes, especially those involving disputed areas in the South China Sea.

Governments, telecoms and financial services are the top three sectors targeted for attacks, said the report.

The ASOC is the first facility of its kind in the world to integrate Singtel's network operations with FireEye's security operations centre, which collects intelligence on cyber threats as well as monitor cyber attackers' behaviour.

The integration gives the ASOC's 50 cyber security experts a complete picture of Internet traffic, corporate networks and devices, such as PCs, to identify security incidents and make swift responses.

Yesterday, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim opened the ASOC, based at Singtel's headquarters in Comcentre.

He said that given the ubiquity of cyber threats, organisations must consider cyber threats when designing their IT systems and networks, not as an afterthought.

He added that the newly formed Cyber Security Agency - to be launched on April 1 - will reach out to organisations "to share the message that establishing cyber security measures early will benefit them" by protecting them from reputational and financial risks posed by cyber threats.

The ASOC's setting-up comes four months after Singtel and FireEye inked a five-year deal to invest US$50 million (S$68 million) to develop a cyber security ecosystem here, including the centre, the training of 150 cyber experts and publication of a twice yearly regional cyber threat report.

The project also covers a similar ASOC in Sydney, which will be opened next month.

The two ASOCs are connected to FireEye's three major security operations centre in the United States and Europe.

In an interview after the opening of the ASOC, FireEye chief executive David DeWalt said cyber attackers have gone global.

"We collect information from more than 3,000 customers in the world which lets us identify the techniques and tools and attack patterns of cyber attackers. We share this information with all the ASOCs, including the ones here and in Sydney.

"So now everyone knows the behaviour of these attackers and when we see suspicious activity coming from them, we can take action to shut them down," said Mr DeWalt, who attended the ASOC's opening.

"We're on the brink of predictive prevention. Then we'll be better than the attackers when we can stop them before they can do anything bad, unlike the past 10 years or so, when we're just playing defence to their offence."

Singtel's Mr Chang highlighted the fact that another hot spot for attacks is mobile phones.

"Increasingly, our phones are being used to access corporate data. Attackers know this. So our plan is to develop something that will protect mobile phones from attacks," he said.

He added that cyber safety is critical as Singapore aims to be a smart nation.

"We'll have sensors everywhere as we develop smart nation applications. Many will be monitoring critical applications in places like the airports and train stations. So we've to ensure that these applications run without interruption so that we have a smart, safe nation," he added.

Research analyst Anmoh Singh from Gartner said cyber attacks on Singapore organisations are increasing and getting more sophisticated.

"Organisation need new ways to tackle the APT attacks like advanced monitoring systems, real-time threat detection and network traffic analysis.

"No one approach will work on its own. You need several approaches," he added.

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