Defence against cyber threats

23 February 2017 | Research
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Mr Lim (centre), Prof Tan (left) and Mr Quek Gim Pew, Chairman, NCL Governing Board at the NCL launch ceremony

NUS, supported by the National Cybersecurity R&D Programme at the National Research Foundation (NRF), has launched the National Cybersecurity R&D Laboratory (NCL), a national shared infrastructure which provides a realistic environment for cybersecurity research and test-bedding of innovative solutions against cyber threats. The NCL launch was held at NUS University Town on 21 February, which was graced by Guest-of-Honour Mr Gabriel Lim, Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Communications and Information.

In his welcome address, NUS Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost Professor Tan Eng Chye spoke of the benefits NCL would bring, saying, “Researchers, businesses and educators can embark on experiments and achieve results more quickly, as this lab will help to save time, effort and costs associated with setting up one’s operating environment.” He added that the concentration of cybersecurity R&D activities at NUS would create positive network effects and excellent opportunities for manpower training and entrepreneurship.

Hosted at NUS Computing, the $8.4 million NCL is jointly led by Associate Professor Chang Ee-Chien, Associate Professor Liang Zhenkai and Dr Guo Charng Rang from NUS Computer Science. NCL will promote the development of cybersecurity solutions in research involving large-scale experimentation and validation, investigations requiring vulnerable environments as well as research which requires joint efforts amongst multiple researchers.

The facilities at NCL, which include a test-bed of 100 machines, a library of ready-to-use environments and a large collection of malware, will also be used for education purposes, such as providing hands-on training for students and industry experts on system vulnerabilities.

“Currently, the utilisation rate is quite high, so we’re looking into expanding the cluster to support the community,” said Dr Guo. NCL targets to enhance its test-bed capacity by three folds by the end of the year.

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From left: Mr Lim, Dr Guo and Prof Tan dropped by the NCL booth after the launch

Some 20 research projects are underway at NCL, covering areas such as cloud data storage, software security improvements and security of urban transport systems. NCL is also working on software defined networks, which allows dynamic routing of resources. “In a classical method, the defence is fixed when there is a distributed denial of service attack. If you have a software defined network, you can quickly respond to the attack and shift your resources to handle the attacks,” explained Assoc Prof Chang.

Dean of NUS Computing Professor Mohan Kankanhalli said that with cybersecurity threats becoming increasingly complex and multifaceted, it was crucial to safeguard Singapore’s infrastructure, networks and data as the country progressed towards building a Smart Nation. “We are confident that the NCL will foster greater collaboration between industry and academia, and catalyse the development of cutting edge cybersecurity solutions,” he shared.

The launch was held in conjunction with the 2nd Singapore Cyber Security R&D Conference on 21 and 22 February. Organised by NUS and supported by NRF, this year’s conference focuses on approaching cybersecurity in complex computer systems.

See press release.