With cybercrime on the rise, digital security is now part of the Singapore government’s Smart Nation 2022 initiative. Startups are taking to heart the importance of safeguarding the digital realm and developing solutions to prevent cybercrime.
A modern threat
The cyber ecosystem in Singapore is expanding rapidly. At the start of 2022, the city-state had an internet penetration rate of 92%, giving malicious actors more targets than ever to exploit.
Based on a survey in January 2022, IT security company Sophos found that 65% of organizations in Singapore were hit by ransomware in 2021, up from 25% the previous year. Businesses reported that phishing attempts and ransomware are the most common type of cyber threats, with SMEs being the main targets.
“Last year, Singapore observed a 73% increase in reported data breaches and ransomware incidents, compared to the year before,” said Teo Chee Hean, Singapore’s senior minister and coordinating minister for national security, in March 2022. “Cybercrime accounts for almost half of all crime in Singapore today.”
Safeguarding Singapore’s smart nation
Singapore has long set its sights on becoming a world-class, tech-driven city-state. The Smart Nation initiative was established to achieve this by harnessing IT, networks, and big data to create tech-enabled solutions. The cybersecurity industry is crucial in “underpinning a sustainable digital future,” as stated by Teo.
According to the Infocomm Media Development Authority, the cybersecurity market in Singapore is expected to reach USD 889 million in 2022. From 2022 to 2030, the market is projected to grow a further 10% to 13% to become a USD 2.4 billion market.
Predicting and preventing cyberattacks
Founded in 2016, Responsible Cyber is a Singapore-based B2B cybersecurity startup. The company equips startups and growing enterprises with comprehensive cybersecurity.
Responsible Cyber developed the Immune platform, which generates risk scenarios and recommends control measures. Immune uses AI and automation to manage cyber risk. It generates reports based on publicly obtainable information to indicate the risks and threats faced by a business. Immune then estimates the business’ potential losses, visualizing risk situations in monetary terms.
In March, Responsible Cyber was bestowed with the SME (Vendor) award for its contribution to the cybersecurity ecosystem in Singapore. The award was issued by the Association of Information Security Professionals, with support from the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) and Singapore Cyber Security Inter Association (SCSIA).
Securing online transactions
Built for fraud detection, Cylynx creates preventative solutions powered by network analytics. By applying machine learning and graph analytics, Cylynx automates transaction monitoring to prevent fraudulent transactions. Through a screening process, its anomaly detection engine checks senders and beneficiaries against international money laundering blacklists, and suspicious transactions are automatically flagged for review.
Clynx also operates a transaction monitoring system for cryptocurrency exchanges. Using blockchain forensics to analyze and track asset transfers, the system can flag suspicious transactions and discover criminal activity.
In the 2021 Global Veritas Challenge, Cylynx’s VerifyML open-source governance, which gives developers the capability to build reliable and fair machine learning models, won the award for the Risk, Compliance, and Fraud Monitoring category.
Strengthening web protection
Founded in 2013, Polaris builds security solutions that automate traffic analysis and monitoring across a business’s web applications.
Polaris’ Web Application & API Protection (WAAP) platform can be hosted on the cloud, on-premise, or as a hybrid solution. It applies AI to actively detect and deter cyberattacks against businesses. Unlike a traditional firewall, WAAP is a highly specialized security tool specifically designed to protect web applications and APIs.
Through behavioral learning techniques such as fingerprinting—the process of gathering information about a user’s machine to form a unique profile—Polaris differentiates between legitimate and malicious web requests.
Using AI and machine learning, the platform improves the accuracy of threat detection and can predict coordinated stealth attacks. Polaris’ threat intelligence capabilities grow alongside evolving cyber threats, forming a more comprehensive warning system.
The Cybersecurity Strategy and ICE71
According to Teo, “The government has invested heavily in initiatives to develop our cybersecurity workforce.” An initiative of note is Singapore’s Cybersecurity Strategy 2021, which lays out plans to strengthen the resilience of the city-state’s digital infrastructure to enable a safer digital space.
In the Cybersecurity Strategy, the Singapore government acknowledges the significance of startups, citing Innovation Cybersecurity Ecosystem at Block 71 (ICE71) as a key initiative in supporting the growth of cyber entrepreneurs. Formed by Singtel Innov8 (the venture capital arm of the Singtel Group) and NUS Enterprise (the entrepreneurial arm of the National University of Singapore), ICE71 is the region’s first cybersecurity startup hub. ICE71 supports innovators and startups at all growth stages, creating entrepreneurship programs to engage the cybersecurity community and promote collaboration. Since its inception in July 2018, 16 startups from previous cohorts have collectively raised SGD 18 million (USD 12.9 million), including funding from ICE71’s founding partners Singtel Innov8 and NUS Enterprise.
Singapore has also developed funding initiatives to incentivize the cultivation of cybersecurity talent. In 2021, the CSA was allocated an operating budget of SGD 114.74 million (USD 82.8 million) under Singapore’s FY2021 Budget. Subsequently, the agency rolled out a Cybersecurity Co-Innovation and Development Fund (CCDF), which awards companies with innovative online protection solutions with SGD 1 million (USD 721,700) for further development.
For Singapore, a secure cyberspace is fundamental to its national security. For the city-state’s digital economy to thrive, any entity with an online presence must be able to safeguard its data and digital assets from cybercriminals.