The National Cybersecurity R&D Programme (NCR) seeks to develop R&D expertise and capabilities in cybersecurity for Singapore. It aims to improve the trustworthiness of cyber infrastructures with an emphasis on security, reliability, resiliency and usability.
NCR is coordinated by National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF), National Security Coordination Secretariat, Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Defence, Government Technology Agency, Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Economic Development Board to promote collaboration among government agencies, academia, research institutes and private sector organisations.
Launched in 2013, the NCR was supported at $130 million over five years. The funding supports research efforts into both technological and human-science aspects of cybersecurity. In 2016, an additional $60 million was allocated to extend the support until 2020. The funding will be used to deepen the development of cybersecurity R&D expertise in Singapore. This includes the funding of grant calls and cybersecurity research infrastructure.
Cybersecurity research spans six themes, which are designed to provide an element of operational context, while not restricting “game-changing” ideas from the community. The six themes are:
- Scalable Trustworthy Systems: Research into technologies to make computing systems' hardware, firmware and software function dependability despite the presence of untrustworthy components or insiders
- Resilient Systems: Research for improving resiliency, robustness, adaptability, and capacity in systems will provide technologies to rapidly respond & recover cyber-physical systems and supporting infrastructure (e.g. power, water, communication)
- Effective Situation Awareness and Attack Attribution: Focus on research to enhance understanding of cyber situations, deliver new cyber forensics techniques and tools to fast-track investigation and attack attribution
- Combatting Insider Threats: Research to combat insider threats will enable us to create, analyse, evaluate, and deploy mechanisms and strategies that can provide detection, prevention and identification of insiders and their activities
- Threats Detection, Analysis and Defence: Research to combat threats like malware and botnets will enable us to create, analyse, evaluate, and deploy mechanisms and strategies that can provide detection, analysis, prevention and immunisation capabilities against malware and botnets
- Efficient and Effective Digital Forensics: Applied research for digital evidence acquisition and forensics to reduce the analysis time required to comprehensively locate and evaluate digital evidence in diverse, disperse and multi-tenanted systems
These efforts are complemented by studies into cyberspace governance and policy research.
National Satellites of Excellence
National Satellites of Excellence (SOE) aim to develop and consolidate local cybersecurity research strengths in domains that are of national interest. Each SOE is anchored at a local Institute of Higher Learning (IHL) with the relevant research strengths, and works in collaboration with the rest of the research ecosystem including other IHLs, research institutes, private R&D collaborators, government agencies and industry. Each SOE will also organise grant calls involving academia and industry. These support the effective coordination of R&D and translation efforts across the ecosystem.
National Satellite of Excellence in Trustworthy Software Systems
The National Satellite of Excellence in Trustworthy Software Systems aims to develop certification tools and workflows to certify the security and operating environment behaviours of embedded software systems. It will focus on research to develop certification technologies and services with the following capabilities:
- Functionality checking;
- Crash and vulnerability checking;
- Checking for resilience against malicious inputs and environments (non-functional checking); and
- Checking for information leakage via side channels (non-functional checking).
Anchored in the National University of Singapore (NUS), this SOE will be led by Professor Abhik Roychoudhury from NUS’ School of Computing and Associate Professor Liu Yang from Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) School of Computer Science and Engineering. Set up in 2019, it will be supported with $12 million in funding over four years.
National Satellite of Excellence in Mobile Systems Security & Cloud Security
The National Satellite of Excellence in Mobile Systems Security & Cloud Security aims to develop a technology pipeline that would address the mobile system security and mobile cloud security needs for real-time monitoring/decision systems used in critical smart nation applications. It will focus on research in the following core competencies:
- Privacy-preserving access and search of encrypted data;
- Privacy-preserving computation over encrypted data; and
- Applications of privacy-preserving technologies in in-home elderly monitoring systems.
Anchored in the Singapore Management University (SMU), this SOE will be led by Professor Robert Deng from SMU’s School of Information Systems. Set up in 2019, it will be supported with $7.5 million in funding over five years.
National Satellite of Excellence in Design Science and Technology for Secure Critical Infrastructure
The National Satellite of Excellence in Design Science and Technology for Secure Critical Infrastructure aims to generate scalable technologies to ensure that Singapore’s existing and new critical infrastructures are highly resilient to cyber and cyber-physical attacks. It will focus on research along three tracks:
- Detection of process anomalies in water and electric power networks;
- Creation of digital twin for water treatment system; and
- Command validation algorithms based on design and data centric methods.
Anchored in the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), this SOE will be led by Professor Aditya Mathur and Professor Zhou Jianying from SUTD’s Information Systems Technology and Design pillar. Set up in 2019, it will be supported with $13.2 million in funding over three years.
National Cybersecurity R&D Laboratory
The National Cybersecurity R&D Laboratory (NCL) aims to provide users with a wide range of ready-to-use tools for cybersecurity testing in repeatable and predictable experimentation environments. Launched in 2017, it also provides useful datasets that researchers can utilise to conduct and validate their ideas and cybersecurity solutions.
Hosted at the NUS School of Computing, the S$8.4 million facility serves as a synergistic platform for cybersecurity researchers, both locally and internationally, to collaborate on research projects and share data, resources and knowledge. The NCL’s facilities will also be used for education purposes, such as providing hands-on training for students and industry experts on system vulnerabilities.
The Singapore University of Technology and Design’s iTrust Labs, which was set up to conduct multidisciplinary research in cyber-physical systems, has joined the NCL platform in 2019. Collectively, the NCL and iTrust Labs will offer integrated experimentations and services to support government agencies, academia and industry in their enterprise IT and operations technology cybersecurity research, technology evaluations and training.
Singapore Cybersecurity Consortium
The Singapore Cybersecurity Consortium (SGCSC) was launched in 2016 to promote research, commercialisation and training in cybersecurity. Led by Professor Abhik Roychoudhury from the NUS School of Computing, it aims to encourage use-inspired research, technology translation, manpower training and technology awareness among industry members. The consortium will also leverage the NCL infrastructure to impart skills and experience in cybersecurity experimentation to industry personnel. Consortium members have access to a range of activities that offer opportunities for dialogue, partnerships, knowledge update, skills training, and research collaborations with universities via seed grants.
Six projects were awarded close to $0.6 million under a seed grant call in 2017 to spur the commercialisation of cybersecurity technologies. The awarded projects cover research topics including a method of identifying Internet of Things devices while preserving subscriber privacy, and a testing environment for cybersecurity technologies. Read press release.
The NCR supports cybersecurity R&D projects through local and international grants. Click here for more information on the R&D projects that have been supported through NCR.
The NCR has launched three grant calls to date.
Under the inaugural grant call launched in 2014, seven research projects were awarded a total of $42 million in funding. The awarded projects seek to strengthen Singapore’s R&D capabilities in cybersecurity, protect our critical infrastructure and improve the resiliency of cyber infrastructure. They cover research topics in mobile security, cyber-physical systems security, hardware and software security, digital forensics, and securing data in the cloud. Read press release.
Nine research projects were awarded a total of $15.6 million under the second grant call in 2017. The second grant call focused on national security, critical infrastructure and Smart Nation. The awarded projects cover research topics including anomaly detection systems, secure environments on smartphones, security of cyber-physical systems, and using deep learning to detect malwares. Read press release.
The third grant call was launched in August 2018 for proposals in the areas of cybersecurity forensics and investigations, adaptive network security, security architectures and composable security components for Smart Nation applications, cyber inoculation against human incompetence and frailties, enhanced security evaluation and assurance, cybersecurity for the energy sector, and novel implementation of cybersecurity technology. Application has closed, and details on the awarded projects will be published in due course.
NCR has also awarded a grant to NUS and NTU in 2018 to set up a research programme in Assuring Hardware Security by Design in Systems on Chip (SOCure), which aims to develop national capabilities in chip-level hardware security by design. The four research thrusts are physical threats and countermeasures, secure architectures, security analysis and evaluation, and system-on-chip integration and demonstration. The S$11.6 million research programme is led by Associate Professor Massimo Alioto from NUS’ Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, with research contributions from NUS, NTU and other international collaborators from Israel, US and UK.
NRF and UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) announced the results of a joint S$5.1 million research call in December 2015. The Singapore-UK collaboration has funded six projects over three years, with UK and Singapore-based researchers working together to develop new solutions that will enhance resilience against cyber attacks. The six awarded projects cover research in areas such as intrusions, data analytics, human factors, and sector and applications. Read press release.
NCR and Tel Aviv University’s Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center launched a grant call in May 2016 to support collaborative research projects to enhance cybersecurity. The four awarded projects cover research topics including improving cybersecurity through human behaviour modelling, deterring cybersecurity threats through Internet topology, safety and privacy of smart city mobile applications, and the quantification of cyber risk. Read press release.
SG:D Scholarship in Cybersecurity (Postgraduate) (formerly the National Cybersecurity Postgraduate Scholarship)
The SG:D Scholarship (Postgraduate) in Cybersecurity is jointly offered by NRF and IMDA, under the National Cybersecurity R&D (NCR) Programme. It is a prestigious scholarship for graduates and working professionals who are keen to further their studies in Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence or other Infocomm Media (ICM) areas at the Masters or PhD level.
Scholarship applications open in December and close in March every year. For more information, please visit https://www.imda.gov.sg/