Asean, Australia should work closer on cyber security issues: PM Lee

Prime Minister calls for more collaboration between Asean and Australia

It is essential for the region to develop new rules and norms to deal with cyber security threats, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, as he called for Asean and Australia to work more closely together on issues ranging from Internet crimes to fake news.

The world, he said yesterday, is getting more vulnerable to cyber security threats, not less.

He was addressing fellow Asean leaders and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Asean-Australia Special Summit, which both co-chaired.

Singapore is the Asean chairman this year.

Mr Lee noted that cybercrimes are a trans-boundary problem, and difficult to police.

"It can have a drastic impact on our populations, for example in terms of critical infrastructure; and it can be insidious - undermining the trust which holds our societies together, for example through fake news," he said.


The Asean-Australia Cyber Policy Dialogue proposed at the summit can be a platform for greater exchange and capacity-building, he added.

"The world is getting more vulnerable to cyber security threats, not less vulnerable.

The world is getting more vulnerable to cyber security threats, not less vulnerable. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

"It is essential for us to develop new rules and norms, and there is potential for our region to play a role in international discourse," he said.

Mr Lee's comments come at a time when Singapore is debating how it should combat deliberate falsehoods online.

A rarely convened Select Committee is interviewing experts and community leaders these few weeks, before making its recommendations.

Yesterday, Mr Lee outlined a second promising area for strategic cooperation between Asean and Australia: developing smart cities.

A new Asean-Australia Smart Cities Initiative, announced by Mr Turnbull on Saturday, complements the Asean Smart Cities Network initiative and Asean's Masterplan on Asean Connectivity 2025, said Mr Lee.

The Asean-Australia initiative will see Australia providing A$30 million (S$30.5 million) over the next five years to help Asean develop cities in smart and sustainable ways.

Australia will provide training and technical assistance, support efforts to advance sustainable urbanisation, and establish a regional urbanisation forum.

At a joint press conference with Mr Lee at the end of the summit, Mr Turnbull said an important aspect of the initiative will be the sharing of knowledge and experience across governments.