Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has announced its plan to set up a new wing dedicated to digital security to be launched by the last quarter of this year.
As the SAF’s so-called “fourth service” (after the army, navy, and air force), the Digital and Intelligence Service (DIS) will be responsible for intelligence, cyber and psychological defense, as well as the advancement of the SAF as a networked force.
“As good and as ambitious as the next generation SAF is, there are some gaps and capabilities, which recent events and developments warned us against,” said Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen in parliament on Wednesday. “And I’m talking primarily about threats in the digital domain.”
The new military cyber service is expected to “deal effectively with digital threats from external aggressors that we expect will grow in numbers, sophistication and organization,” Ng added.
Ng aklso said the new SAF service could require several brigades or a division-sized force to fulfill its mission.
“It will also be responsible for digital defense of the SAF through cyber defense and electronic protection of our networks and systems, and psychological defense to strengthen our servicemen’s commitment and resilience in operations,” he said.
As the economic and financial hub in Southeast Asia, Singapore has been the target of cyberattacks, fake news and hostile information campaigns for years.
In 2021, the number of ransomware and botnet attacks in 2021 reached 9,080, up from 4,977 in 2018. Several years back, the government said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s personal details had been compromised in a “major” cyberattack on the government’s largest healthcare group.
However, Singapore’s move is also a response to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, which reportedly includes cyberattacks.
In late February, the hacker collective Anonymous – a decentralized collective of individuals without hierarchy or leadership – declared a “cyberwar” on Russia for its attack on Ukraine as they launched several cyber operations that took down RT.com (the propaganda outlet for the Russian government) as well as other Russian websites including the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and banks in Belarus and Russia.
Ukraine also called for volunteers from the country’s hacker underground to help protect critical infrastructure and conduct cyber spying missions against Russian troops, Reuters reported.
On 27 February, the Vice-Prime Minister of Ukraine and Minister of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov announced that Ukraine will create an “IT army” to fight against Russia’s digital intrusions.