Technology: A major game changer in national security

Greater connectivity brings vast economic opportunities for an open society like Singapore with high volumes of trade, but it also ushers in new security challenges.

Speaking at the 10th anniversary of the ISD Heritage Center
this week, Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said these security threats are varied – from global terrorism to cyber attacks to espionage and subversion to online fraud.

“But what is new today is that technology has been a major game changer: our vulnerability has increased because of our own inter-connectivity, the cache of classified information that can potentially be stolen through electronic media, and our heavy reliance on IT systems for essential services,” he said.

“In short, the threat of cyber espionage has added to our new reality. We have already seen a few attacks and have countered them. We are likely to see more in the future,” he warned.  

Global terrorism

Teo also explained that global terrorism has evolved over the years and while security at major ports of entry have been stepped up in most countries,  no security regime can be fool-proof unless the entire country is locked down.

“If we do that then we have also lost in an inter-dependent global world, this is not realistic, much less for a small country that depends on trade like Singapore,” he said.

Teo also warned against new forms of the terrorism threat have arisen such as online radicalization and self-radicalization that have led individuals to tie up with terrorist groups, as well as racial and religious extremism.

“Indeed, the most dangerous threat of terrorism to Singapore is its impact on our communal harmony. A terrorism attack carried out by home-grown terrorists can cause serious and long-lasting damage to the trust between our communities,” he said. "It is precisely because of these concerns that the government has embarked on programs to build a network of trust between the different communities. This is an area where Singapore already has a strong foundation, which we must continue to build upon."
The ISD Heritage Center

Teo, who is also the Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs, lauded the ISD Heritage Center for its role in keeping Singapore “safe, secure and sovereign.”

Set up originally as an in-house training facility for ISD officers, the center now contains a rich repository of material on Singapore’s post-war security history and has been visited by more than 60,000 people since its opening in 2002.

“Post-9-11, the center has played an important role in reaching out to civil servants, grassroots leaders under the Community Engagement Program and Inter-Racial and Religious Harmony Circles, and members of the public to raise their security awareness,” he added.

On Tuesday, the center launched its new Counter-Terrorism Gallery, which showcases case studies and exhibits arising from ISD’s counter-terrorism investigations over the past 10 years. Teo said it includes new cases and artefacts that have not been made public before.