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Speech by Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at the Launch of the New Certis and Official Opening of Certis Commonwealth, 23 October 2018, at Certis Commonwealth

23 Oct 2018
Mr Olivier Lim, Chairman, Certis

Mr Paul Chong, Group Chief Executive Officer, Certis

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. A very good afternoon. I am happy to be here today at the launch of the new Certis and official opening of the Certis Commonwealth. Let me begin by expressing my heartiest congratulations to Olivier, Paul and your team!

2. As a former policeman, I am aware of the history of Certis. Certis has come a long way since its formation 60 years ago, in 1958, before Singapore’s independence. Certis has grown to become the largest private sector player in Singapore’s security industry.

a. It has its roots as the Guard and Escort Unit under the Singapore Police Force in 1958.

b. In 1972, it was spun off to form the Government-owned Commercial and Industrial Security Corporation, or CISCO to relieve the SPF’s manpower constraints at the time.

c. In 2005, CISCO was corporatised as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Temasek Holdings to become the Certis we know today, as part of our efforts to introduce greater competition in the armed security industry. 

d. Over the years, Certis expanded its business overseas. Today, it has operations in countries such as Malaysia, Hong Kong, Australia, China, and the Middle East.

e. Certis has also diversified its businesses. It started out providing physical security services. Today, it specialises in building and operating bespoke operations-technology solutions for a wide range of business needs that require deep integration of process design, security, manpower, technology and facilities management.

f. As Olivier shared earlier on, Certis has grown also because it has integrated new technologies and processes to better protect its clients against different types of security threats we faced. 

3. Today, Singapore is one of the world’s safest and most secure cities. 

a. Internationally, the 2017 Gallup Global Law and Order Report ranked us 1st. The 2017 Economist Intelligence Unit Safe Cities Index ranked us 2nd behind Tokyo. 

b. These outcomes would not have been possible without the Government, the private sector, especially the security industry, and our people working together to deter, detect and prevent security threats. 

4. However, security threats have continued to rise and grow in complexity. Today, I would like to share about the security threats that Singapore is facing and how we, the Government, the security industry and the community-at-large must continue to respond to them. And I would say that the challenges that we face, are also the challenges that many cities in the world and many countries face.

Security threats are rising and growing in complexity

5. First, the terrorism threat to Singapore remains high.

a. While ISIS has lost much of its territory in the Middle East, the threat in our region continues to grow as foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria return. Singapore has been specifically targeted in jihadist publications and videos, and the number of self-radicalised individuals we have arrested have increased sharply in the last two years.

b. Equally worryingly, the nature and methodology of attacks have evolved. In the past, attacks were carried out at prominent locations by trained terrorists working in larger cells. Now, attacks are carried out by self-radicalised lone wolves who can strike anywhere, using ordinary objects like knives and trucks. Just last year, a terrorist mowed down people along the pavement on Westminster Bridge. He then crashed his car onto the railings of the UK Parliament, before attacking police officers with a knife. A similar attack took place in Manhattan, New York in December 2017. Such attacks are easy to execute, capable of causing significant number of casualties, and harder for us to detect and protect against. 

6. Second, beyond physical threats, borderless and global cyber threats are also becoming more prevalent as our economies and societies digitalise.

a. With more and more digital assets such as intellectual property and personal data in the cyber space, our IT systems have become targets. There are many unknown attackers, probing and hoping to penetrate our defenses to steal our valuable information and data.

b. We have all heard earlier this year, how the SingHealth IT system was hacked by a team of sophisticated, well-resourced and determined attackers. The attackers successfully infiltrated SingHealth’s system and stole the personal records of 1.5 million patients.

c. And just a few weeks ago, Facebook suffered its worst ever security breach, exposing the personal information of at least 30 million users world-wide. Even the high-tech Silicon Valley companies are not spared from cyberattacks. We have to continue to invest and strengthen cyber defence. 

7. Third, we are also increasingly paying attention to disinformation campaigns, or what is commonly referred to as, fake news.

a. The spread of digital technologies has made it easier, cheaper and even profitable to create and spread disinformation. These organised disinformation campaigns can be employed by state actors to harm our national security, divide our communities, and erode public trust. This is serious and there is no easy solution. The Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods have tabled its recommendations. These include legislation and regulation, public education, and developing technologies to identify online falsehoods. The Government, media and tech companies, and the community will all have to work together to implement the recommendations.

8. As Singapore continues to enhance our connectivity with the world and realise our Smart Nation’s ambitions, we will continue to face attacks by hostile actors. They will test our defences on different fronts – from the physical to cyber. They can target the Government, our businesses, and our communities. We must not let them succeed. Let me suggest three ways:

a. First, how the Government, industry and the community must continue to work together.

b. Second, harness technology to detect and defend against threats; and 

c. Third, build new capabilities and innovate to stay ahead of threats.  

How the Government and the security industry must respond

9. First, the Government, industry and the community must continue to work together to keep Singapore safe and secure.

a. Singapore is known to be a safe and secure city. Our people feel safe walking home at night, and over the years, we have consistently kept crime rates low. But we cannot be complacent and take our security for granted. Low crime does not mean no crime. Most of us would still recall the alleged bomb threat on board Scoot Flight TR634 in April this year. Although it turned out to be a false alarm, we demonstrated our readiness through our Air Force’s swift response. Our capabilities and readiness had been painstakingly built over the years, because our response matters when there is a terrorist attack. 

b. Today, about 27% of our national budget goes to security and national defence, and we will continue to invest in security to keep Singapore safe. Last year, the SAF opened the Island Defence Training Institute which will train about 18,000 active soldiers and NSmen every year in counter-terrorism and homeland security. And just last December, ahead of the festive season, the Police put in place In-Situ Reaction Teams to patrol areas with high human traffic, such as Orchard Road and Marina Bay, to reduce response time to an incident. With these efforts, our security forces are better prepared to deal with the threat when an incident happens.

c. The security industry also has a major role to play. Today, the security industry employs some 47,000 security officers, 600 service providers and 240 security agencies who work tirelessly round-the-clock to support the Home Team in their operations. Security companies like Certis perform a range of security functions. You protect our homes, offices and shopping centres. You patrol the streets as we usher in festivals such as the New Year at Marina Bay. You work with our security agencies to secure key installations like the Jurong Island, and Changi Airport.

d. And speaking of Changi Airport, it is a good example of how the public and private sectors are working together every day to keep Singapore safe. Certis deploys many security personnel, working 24/7, to handle multi-faceted duties such as access control, baggage screening and armed protection. Together with the Home Team, Certis provides the millions of Singaporeans and visitors who pass through Changi Airport every year with peace of mind.

e. In addition, another reason why Singapore has been able to maintain low crime rates is that we bring our police officers close to the community to get their support in fighting crime, and build strong partnerships with them. This is reflected in SGSecure, Singapore’s national movement to sensitise, train and mobilise our community to prevent and deal with a terror attack. Besides encouraging individuals to be better prepared, the SGSecure movement has been encouraging organisations to strengthen their preparedness at an institutional level. As a provider of security services to many building owners, Certis plays a key role in working with businesses to improve their contingency plans, and to minimise damage and loss of life in the event of an attack. 

f. Let us continue to stay vigilant, forge a strong public-private-people partnership, and work together to keep our country, our homes and our loved ones safe.

10. Second, we must harness technology to better detect and defend against threats.

a. Technology can help us to be more efficient and effective in detecting and defending against threats. For example, if you go to the Tuas Checkpoint today, you will find radiographic imaging scanners installed. These scanners scan all arriving buses to detect anomalies such as hidden compartments. Our ICA officers, who are trained in analysing X-ray images, can then quickly follow-up to perform targeted checks. Instead of conducting manual checks on every single bus, they can now focus their time and attention on the anomalies that the scanners detect. This concept can scale across the private security industry too through technology like video analytics, which can detect anomalies in real-time video footage. Security officers can then focus on responding to alerts rather than patrolling and monitoring CCTV screens.

b. Technology adoption is a key component of the Security Industry Transformation Map (ITM), which was launched in February this year. It is a tripartite effort to transform the industry from one that is manpower-reliant, to one that harnesses technology and highly-skilled officers to deliver better security outcomes for Singapore. 

c. In support of the Security ITM, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) have developed a Security Industry Digital Plan (IDP). The IDP provides a step-by-step guide for local SME security agencies to adopt technology at each stage of their growth. Funding is also available from Enterprise Singapore through the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) to help with the upfront cost of adopting technology. The solutions funded under the PSG include mobile patrol and incident management applications, visitor management systems and video analytics. 

d. I strongly encourage all the SMEs in the industry to adopt these pre-approved security solutions and adapt them to fit your needs so that we can enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of our security officers. And as Chairman of our National Research Foundation, I mentioned to our researchers that one of the areas which I would like to see more R&D work done, is in the security area, because I think we must do more, to harness technology whenever we can.

11. Third, we must build new capabilities and innovate to stay ahead of the threats.

a. Ultimately, defending and protecting ourselves against those who wish to harm us is a never-ending responsibility. We must continue to do better and stay ahead of the threats. There are attackers out there who will exploit weaknesses in our processes and systems. 

b. Cyber space is a critical area for which we must beef up our security capabilities. The Government is continuing to invest to strengthen our cybersecurity capabilities. The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) is working closely with our Critical Information Infrastructure owners to strengthen our cyber defenses. At the end of this year, we will also be launching a Government Bug Bounty Programme where we will invite both international and local white-hat hackers to test selected, internet-facing Government systems and identify vulnerabilities.

c. And to further enhance innovation and build capabilities in the security sector, IMDA has set aside $2.5million to fund four consortium projects under the IMDA-MHA Call for Innovative Solutions. The four projects allow security agencies to partner with technology providers and service buyers to pilot a wide range of technology innovations, such as using Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics and the Internet of Things to improve security. 

d. I am happy to note that Certis will be involved in one of the pilots that involves the prototyping of a Multi-Signal Surveillance Platform at Changi Airport, which combines audio with video analytics to reduce the number of false positive alerts. I wish these pilots success and I hope that they will inspire more advanced and innovative solutions.

e. As a key member of the Security Industry Tripartite Committee that drives the direction of the Security ITM, Certis has set an example for the industry in building new capabilities and driving innovation. I understand that Certis Commonwealth serves as a Living Lab where Certis will experiment with technology such as Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, and test creative security solutions in a realistic environment.  I look forward to the tour later to learn more about how Certis is building new capabilities and transforming your security operations. 


12. Let me conclude. In the face of rising and complex security threats, the Government, the security industry, and the community must work together to keep Singapore safe and secure. We must harness technology to defend against threats –whether physical or cyber– and build new capabilities and innovate to stay ahead.

13. So once again, heartiest congratulations to Certis for your successful transformation to become the New Certis. I hope that you continue to innovate and transform because you play an important role in keeping Singapore safe and secure!

14. Thank you very much.