Singapore takes formal step towards setting up cyber defence unit

Singapore has passed amendments to two Bills that will clear the way for a new digital intelligence unit to be established as part of the country’s armed forces. The government has described the move as necessary amidst intensifying “cyber intrusions” that threaten critical systems. 

First mooted in March, the new digital and intelligence service (DIS) unit would be set up as a fourth service under the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and responsible for combating online attacks. The DIS team would work alongside the three other services–Army, Navy, and Air Force–to enable the country’s defence systems to work as a collective group. 

Expected to be operational by year-end, the new unit would be headed by a chief of digital and intelligence service (CDI), joining the other three service heads. 

The CDI also would be a member of the Armed Forces Council and hold legal powers, discharging their duties and authority to lead the DIS in times of conflict, said Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen in parliament. 

Noting that the “battleground” had extended into the cyber realm, Ng said the DIS needed to be a “fully-fledged military service arm” to safeguard Singapore’s critical infrastructures. “The digital domain–just like air, land, and sea–has become a battle terrain which, if left unguarded, can impact the security and sovereignty of any country,” he said. 

He added that both state- and non-state actors recognised they could use the digital domain to achieve their objectives, particularly, terrorist cells. “Whether to recruit vulnerable inductees,

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