“Technologies which help us to address gaps in our security and defence capabilities can themselves create new vulnerabilities,” said DPM Teo.
Disruptive changes brought about by the Fourth Industrial
Revolution (Industry 4.0) have opened up vast opportunities to innovate and
collaborate. To foster knowledge exchange and explore new frontiers of
partnership amidst swift technological advancements, Singapore’s Defence Science and Technology Agency
(DSTA) has organised the inaugural Singapore Defence Technology Summit from 27
to 29 June 2018.
The theme of the inaugural Singapore Defence Technology Summit
is “Impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on Defence and Security” i.e. how
emerging technologies can impact society as well as the defence and security
landscape. It is expected that some 400 leading policymakers, thought leaders,
industry CEOs and CTOs, academics and entrepreneurs from over 15 countries will
convene to explore new ways to innovate and build collaborations.
Delegates represent the government and academia include the UK’s
Ministry of Defence (MOD), the US Army
Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Centre, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency,
Israel’s Directorate of
Defense Research and Development, Singapore’s Ministry of Defence, the World Economic Forum, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
On 28 June, Singapore Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating
Minister for National Security Mr Teo Chee Hean delivered his keynote address
on new opportunities, vulnerabilities and partnerships for the Fourth
DPM Teo opened his speech by saying that we live in a new
age of rapid technology innovation where there are exciting breakthroughs in a
wide range of areas including data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI),
robotics, cognitive computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) and nanotechnology.
“Not only are the individual technologies revolutionary,
these technologies are also being combined across physical, digital and
biological boundaries in an unprecedented way,” he said.
At the same time, DPM Teo also pointed out that we live in
an increasingly inter-connected world, where networks and systems are expanding
and spreading across business and industrial sectors, and across national
boundaries. Such connectivity comes with vulnerabilities.
“System-of-systems interact with each other, with such
complexity and speed that it requires technology itself to come up with
solutions to manage technology. This presents its own issues. When hackers pry
these systems open, the vulnerabilities exposed are also often beyond what we
imagined to be possible,” he said.
DPM Teo spoke about new opportunities brought by the Industry 4.0, including new
sensing and data analysis tools that provide near comprehensive awareness. He
said that such remote, precise and rapid response capabilities allow us to deal
more effectively with conventional or traditional threats in the physical
world. These technologies have been used to good effect in the battlefield and
lower collateral damage of missions.
“On the home front, we are able to protect our borders
better, seek out and detect potential threats before they develop into actual
attacks. We have the technology to share information on known terrorists and
stolen travel documents through Interpol and other arrangements,” said DPM.
“Coupled with biometrics and facial recognition, security
agencies can stop such persons from crossing borders. These of course have to
be done in accordance with international and our own national laws.”
He also noted that another major change is that commercial
technologies are now often advancing more rapidly than specialised solutions
for defence and security. While many technologies used in everyday life, such
as the Internet, Global Positioning System (GPS) and microprocessors, can trace
their roots to the investments in R&D by governments since the 1950s to
meet defence and security needs, the commercial sector has now become a
significant source of funding and leading-edge innovations.
According to DPM, private sector R&D expenditure has
exceeded government R&D expenditure for most OECD countries, and accounts
for more than three-quarters of total R&D expenditure in several key Asian
Besides, many of these commercial technologies and products,
such as robots and UAVs, can be adapted to meet defence and security needs.
They supersede slower-evolving bespoke systems, and thanks to a larger user
base, often cost less due to economies-of-scale.
An example of such technology is drones. Once exclusive to
the military, drones are now being used for recreation and in commercial
applications, ranging from filming to farming, and are being tried out for
delivery and transport.
Technological advancement in the Industry 4.0 also presents
new challenges and vulnerabilities that the defence and security community will
need to address.
“Technologies which help us to address gaps in our security
and defence capabilities can themselves create new vulnerabilities,” said DPM
As today’s world increasingly relies on interconnected
digital systems, this creates new inter-dependencies. However, DPM explained
the new inter-dependencies also mean new vulnerabilities; that larger and more
interconnected systems increase the surface area that is vulnerable to attack
and attacks can develop with great speed and scale and cause damage across the
In particular, cyberattacks can now be carried out
anonymously on a country’s telecommunications, broadcasting or banking systems.
An example being the WannaCry ransomware attacks in May last year infected
300,000 machines in more than 150 countries in just four days. There have also
been more insidious attempts to interfere surreptitiously in the internal
affairs of a country and to influence the outcome of elections.
DPM again used drones as an example to illustrate his point,
“As commercially available drones become more affordable and capable, they have
been used by criminals for smuggling and corporate espionage. Terrorists also
use them for surveillance and aerial delivery of improvised explosive devices
to penetrate otherwise well-defended targets.”
According to him, hybrid warfare encompassing the physical,
virtual and socio-psychological spheres can now be waged on a wider scale and
penetrate more deeply due to the pervasiveness of digital systems, target
analysis and micro-targeting. However, addressing these vulnerabilities is
not an easy task.
“While the defence and security community is keenly aware of
these new vulnerabilities, the reality, often, is that governments and
commercial operators struggle to find solutions. Even major social media and
technology companies are now grappling with how to assure consumers that their
private data will be used responsibly. And also, how to discharge their
responsibility to ensure that the enormous power and reach of their platforms
is not misused for societal harm. It is not an unadulterated good. We have to
protect ourselves in some way and these social media companies have a
responsibility as well,” he shared.
In face of the changing security landscape and new
challenges, DPM stated that the conventional modes of regulation and protective
measures will need to be geared up to deal with the speed, anonymity and scale
of such new threats. He also said that governments, industry and academia need
to share strategies and knowledge, as well as address the governance and
ethical concerns related to the use of these technologies.
“As economies become more integrated and connected digitally,
governments, companies and academia need to form partnerships to better address
issues that cut across sectors and national boundaries,” he said.
For example, in ramping up its cybersecurity defences,
Singapore has conducted its first national exercise last year, covering all its
11 Critical Information Infrastructure sectors. The exercise aimed to help the
Government and the industries to better understand how to deal with attacks not
just on national systems, but globally interconnected systems.
The country is keen to work with international
partners on establishing new codes of practice and norms for technologies that
are becoming ready for deployment, but where there are no international
standards. Due to its compactness, it is also offering several testbeds such as
the Centre of Excellence for Testing and Research in Autonomous Vehicles for
evaluation of new technologies in a sanitised environment before deployment on
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