Year 2021
September 2021

Singapore and Estonia sign MOU for start-up collaboration, sharing cybersecurity expertise

September 08, 2021
By Ang Hwee Min

SINGAPORE: Singapore and Estonia signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Monday (Sep 6), with key areas of cooperation including greater market access for companies, facilitating more collaboration between start-ups, and sharing expertise on cybersecurity policies.

Speaking to journalists over Zoom on Wednesday while on a work trip to Tallinn, Estonia, Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo said: “We discussed several areas that are really worth working on. Estonia is interested in Asia and sees Singapore as potentially a gateway, a springboard for their businesses.”

The MOU between Singapore and Estonia was signed by Mrs Teo and Estonia’s Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology Andres Sutt.

Under the MOU, both countries are also committed to sharing expertise in cybersecurity policies and protection of critical information infrastructure, as well as participate in cyber threat-related operations, said the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) in a press release.

The two ministers discussed how the start-up ecosystems in Singapore and Estonia can be better connected, Mrs Teo said.

The number of unicorns – private held start-ups that are valued at more than US$1 billion – Estonia has produced is “remarkable” when compared to the size of its population of about 1.3 million people, she added. For example, video conferencing tool Skype was originally founded in Estonia, she noted.

The MOU also covers cooperation and collaboration in terms of cybersecurity, which is “very prominent” in the minds of Estonians after the country suffered a major cyberattack in 2007, said Mrs Teo.

“That, to Estonians, was a wake-up call. They completely reviewed their posture, stance towards cybersecurity. One of the things Estonia decided was important was they have to elevate this topic to global attention,” she added.

Singapore is shifting its cybersecurity posture from emphasising preventative measures to an “assume breach” mindset. The shift in posture is “necessary”, and one aspect means assuming “zero trust for all transactions that matter”, said Mrs Teo.

“The other thing that you need to do is constant vigilance, continuing to look for unusual behaviour,” she added.

Responding to a question about playing catch-up as cybercriminals and cybersecurity attacks become more sophisticated, Mrs Teo said: “That’s where, again, international cooperation is very important.

“We do want to know how our colleagues are dealing with the problems … some people will get attacked earlier than others and it’s important to know for those who have been attacked earlier, what they found to be useful, and what they found to be vulnerabilities, and then you try to build it up.

“In this game, it is unfortunately what we characterise as a wicked problem, meaning that it’s not a situation you can try and solve once and for all.

“You have to accept that the attackers are going to be very motivated because the rewards to them are considerable, and you just have to keep at it.”

Both Singapore and Estonia actively participate in the United Nations Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) on the security of and in the use of information and communications technology – the first UN platform on cybersecurity, said MCI.

During her trip to Tallinn, Mrs Teo was invited to speak at the Tallinn Digital Summit. While attending the summit, she held “substantive discussions” with United States Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, United Kingdom Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden and International Telecommunications Union Director Doreen Bogdan-Martin.

In a panel discussion at the Summit, Mrs Teo shared that Singapore, as the chair of the United Nations OEWG over the next five years, will seek to strengthen rules-based international order in cyberspace.

Singapore and Estonia share a lot of views that are aligned, she added.

“Small states like ours need to have our voices heard and we can also play a contributing role by bringing different views and trying to seek a common ground to move forward,” she said.

Source: CNA/hw

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