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NUS offers new Masters and PhD programmes in FinTech to boost digital finance research talent and capabilities in Singapore

02 April 2021 Department of Information Systems & Analytics , Faculty , News Media , Press Release , FinTech

 

The National University of Singapore (NUS) will offer two new graduate programmes in digital financial technology (FinTech) in the new academic year, to help build a robust ecosystem of high-quality research talent and capabilities to support the fast-growing financial industry in Singapore. The new Masters and PhD programmes are under the Asian Institute of Digital Finance (AIDF) at NUS, a university-level institute jointly founded by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF) and NUS. The PhD programme, in particular, is Singapore’s first and only doctoral programme in FinTech.

In these uncertain times, more financial organisations than ever are leveraging FinTech to grow and improve their financial products, and to enable smooth and more innovative interaction with their customers.

“In this golden age of technology, banks are becoming more efficient as more operational processes are being automated by AI, and decision making is assisted by sophisticated data analytics. Such advancement is rapidly reshaping the financial services sector. At the same time, financial institutions are facing rapid market changes and intensified global competition. In-demand skillsets such as competencies in digital technologies and innovation, which our new Masters and PhD programmes are designed to impart, will give our graduates a significant competitive advantage to thrive in the industry,” shared Associate Professor Huang Ke-Wei, Director of Academic Programmes at AIDF, who is also from the NUS School of Computing (NUS Computing).

Masters of Science in Digital Financial Technology

The 1.5-year Masters of Science in Digital Financial Technology is a collaborative programme by AIDF, NUS Computing and NUS Business School.

With an intake of 40 to 50 students, the Masters programme is designed primarily for those who plan to work in financial institutions or FinTech firms as AI software developers, data scientists, FinTech security specialists, or financial quantitative analysts.

The programme also offers elective modules that cover deep computing and finance expertise to help prepare graduates for future challenges in FinTech.

Students will undertake a two-semester long capstone project which is designed to help them pick up in-depth skills and knowledge in a focused area – such as artificial intelligence, machine learning or data analytics – via experiential learning. Students can choose either an academic research project, or a FinTech internship to gain industry work experience that supports the acquisition of practical work skills and self-directed learning.

Please visit here for more information on the Masters programme.

PhD in Digital Financial Technology

The PhD in Digital Financial Technology programme will be hosted jointly by the NUS Graduate School and AIDF. The programme will admit talented students with computing, finance, or STEM background, and it aims to train graduates who can excel with a strong technical foundation and independent research ability for driving financial innovations in academia as well as in FinTech industries.

As this is currently the only FinTech PhD programme in Singapore, graduates of this programme will be uniquely suited to work in the FinTech industry especially in fields where research projects require advanced quantitative techniques. Graduates may also become trainers in educational institutions to groom qualified FinTech manpower for Singapore and beyond.

Please visit here for more information on the PhD programme.

Applications to the new Masters and PhD programmes are now open and interested students should submit their applications before 15 April 2021.

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Sea makes S$50 million gift to advance cutting edge research and education at NUS School of Computing

29 March 2021 Department of Computer Science , Department of Information Systems & Analytics , News Media , Press Release

 

The National University of Singapore (NUS) and Sea Limited (NYSE: SE) (Sea) today announced that Sea has made a corporate gift of S$50 million to NUS to support the advancement of research and education at NUS School of Computing (NUS Computing), one of the world’s leading computing schools. The gift agreement was signed today at NUS Kent Ridge Campus, where Minister for Education Mr Lawrence Wong witnessed the signing as the Guest-of-Honour.

The commitment, which is the largest corporate gift received by NUS to date, will support NUS Computing in its efforts to substantially enhance and develop pivotal areas such as:

  • Cutting-edge research and education in critical, fast-growing areas such as artificial intelligence and data science;
  • Recruitment and development of academic and research talent through scholarships for undergraduate and postgraduate students, research fellowships, visiting professorships, support for professional development and more; and
  • Strategic initiatives including seed grants for enterprising projects and outreach programmes.

Mr Forrest Li, Sea’s Chairman and Group Chief Executive Officer, said, “Sea is fortunate to be deeply rooted in Singapore's world-class ecosystem of tech talent and research, and we are honoured to give back to our community by supporting the next wave of innovation. The talent, ideas, and breakthroughs in key technology areas that will result from this partnership will not only enhance Singapore's already vibrant tech sector, but also create good jobs and cement our nation's reputation as a global hub for technology innovation.”

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Covid-19 tech heroes recognised for racing against the clock to help fight pandemic in S'pore

19 March 2021 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , Student , News Media

 

With new Covid-19 cases spiking into the hundreds daily in May last year, a team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) raced against time to develop a system to help government contact tracers identify close contacts of patients. The high volume of cases had threatened to overwhelm contact tracers, who needed to ensure that those exposed could be quickly identified, tested and isolated to limit further spread of the coronavirus.

Despite their relative inexperience in creating such a large-scale system, the team of six current and former NUS students managed to develop a Web application in under three weeks, with help from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). The app collated information from various sources to provide contact tracers with an overview of the patient's movements and the people he was in close contact with.

The NUS team's efforts were recognised on Thursday (March 18) at the IT Leader Awards 2021, which was themed Tech Heroes From Crisis to pay tribute to people who made a significant positive impact on the community through technology during the Covid-19 crisis. The awards were organised by the Singapore Computer Society.

Mr Zhu Hanming, 23, who was the co-team lead of the NUS team, said that the Web app converted an existing contact-tracing process, involving manually updating patient activity in a spreadsheet, into a digital form that could be automatically updated.

This was needed to cope with a large number of Covid-19 cases because the previous manual updating process, from the days of the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak, was incapable of handling the high patient numbers. The app was built off a concept version that SAF had initially developed. SAF had sought the help of NUS Computing Associate Professor Ben Leong in May to create such an app.

Prof Leong then assembled a team from a Computing for Voluntary Welfare Organisations initiative, sponsored by the sovereign wealth fund GIC, which helps voluntary welfare groups build IT systems.

The NUS team comprises five computer science students - four in Year 1 and one in Year 3 - and a computer engineering graduate.

The most difficult challenge they faced was that they had little time to develop a functioning app, said Mr Zhu, a first-year computer science student.

"The time period we had to deploy the app and make any changes to it was overnight.

"We couldn't possibly have the contact tracers wait for us to finish deployment in the day," said Mr Zhu, adding that there were also last-minute changes due to the ever-changing situation on the ground.

But being able to deploy the app in June last year in under three weeks was satisfying for the team and worth the sleepless nights.

"It was incredibly fast for the scale of the application we built," said Mr Zhu.

There were 13 winners for this year's Tech Heroes From Crisis awards.

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Entering the billion-dollar league: PatSnap becomes first NUS-supported unicorn

18 March 2021 Alum , News Media

 

It did not happen exactly with a snap of the fingers. It took consistent years of hard work with nurturing and support by NUS Enterprise for PatSnap to be what it is today – a unicorn in business – a company valued at more than US$1 billion. Its R&D intelligence as well as IP intelligence platforms are used by more than 10,000 customers around the world.

Today, its founders, two NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) alumni, can proudly proclaim that they have left their fledgling days far behind when they first formed the start-up in 2007. The company now has offices in the US, the UK, Canada, Japan and China. Its close ties with NUS and access to Singapore’s talent eco-system and dense network of industry partners has enabled it to launch an R&D centre in Singapore three years ago.

In fact, founders Mr Jeffrey Tiong (NUS Engineering, Biomedical Engineering) and Ms Guan Dian (NUS Computing, Information Systems), both previous NUS Outstanding Young Alumni Award winners, have just announced that the company has secured US$300 million in Series E funding. This puts them in unicorn territory, which is reserved for start-ups valued over US$1 billion – a first for NUS-supported start-ups.

Ms Guan helmed the development of PatSnap’s brand and presence in China, and was also responsible for bringing in PatSnap’s first clients. Ms Guan, who went on a year-long NOC internship in Silicon Valley, said, “Without my NOC experience, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now. NOC seeded the entrepreneurial spirit in me, gave me a brand new perspective that uncertainty is not scary and that we can embrace risk-taking."

Ms Guan is also an honouree in Asia Tatler’s Generation T 2018 list and the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2016 list.

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New Book by Singapore's First CIO Sheds Light to Businesses for Their Digital Transformation Response During the Pandemic

11 March 2021 Department of Information Systems & Analytics , Faculty , News Media

Wiley announces a new book, 'Leading with IT: Lessons From Singapore's First CIO' by Alex Siow, the first Chief Information Officer of Singapore's Housing Development Board (HDB) in 1989, and currently a professor in the School of Computing at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and concurrently Director of the Advanced Computing for Executives (ACE). The book offers the next generation of business leaders and executives working closely with technology practical tips and personal insights for navigating the rapid digital transformation efforts due to the pandemic and thriving the new normal.

This book aims to inform and educate readers on the crucial role that IT plays in organizations and why the C-suite should offer CIOs a seat on the top decision-making body or board. As businesses shift their technology investments to embrace digital transformation, putting CIOs and CTOs at the forefront of digital work transformation is crucial in keeping businesses abreast of new industry developments that pop up every single day.

'Leading with IT: Lessons From Singapore's First CIO' is now available at all major bookstores and online book retail platforms.

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Wiley Partners with NUS Advanced Computing for Executives to Launch Global Certification Program Aimed to Close Technology Skills

09 March 2021 Teaching , News Media

 

In this second of the AskST series on university education, The Straits Times looks at how to pick the right institution and course of study.

John Wiley & Sons Singapore Pte Ltd., a global leader in research and education, and the National University of Singapore’s Advanced Computing for Executives (ACE) today announced a partnership to jointly train and certify executives in a range of in-demand technology skills. This partnership will address the need to continually upskill, especially as the world contends with the economic impact of COVID-19.

This series of professional short courses will enable learners to meet the skills demand for long-term career success. The courses, which can be completed in two to three days and will be both instructor-led and self-paced, will be available to all learners globally beginning in April. Courses include:

Driving Innovation through Design Thinking
Story Telling with Data
Developing Winning User Experiences with UI-UX
Analytics for Finance
Analytics for Talent Management

“NUS’ Advanced Computing for Executives (ACE) is pleased to collaborate with Wiley to launch the Global Certification Program. We believe that the knowledge and expertise of ACE, combined with Wiley’s global reach and excellent record of delivering quality products, will help deliver much needed training opportunities to IT professionals around the world. It is also in line with ACE’s vision of helping business leaders harness emerging technology to boost business competitiveness,” said Professor Alex Siow, Director of Advanced Computing for Executives (ACE), School of Computing, National University of Singapore.

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Find your 'element' to pick the right course and university

22 February 2021 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , Student , News Media

 

In this second of the AskST series on university education, The Straits Times looks at how to pick the right institution and course of study.

Q: It is good to have a choice of six local universities, but what should my son look out for in making the choice, other than ensuring that the university offers the computing degree course he wants to pursue?

A: Computing is a good course to study, given the rise of Industry 4.0, which refers to a new phase in industrial revolution that focuses heavily on interconnectivity, automation, machine learning and real-time data.

Several public universities offer degree courses in computing. So, how do you pick the right one?

First, look at whether your son is able to meet the cut-off score for computing, as it is highly competitive. 

For the National University of Singapore (NUS), which has Singapore's largest intake of students for computing - with more than 1,400 last year - students generally need four As to enter the course.

Having said that, many students, including those at NUS, are admitted into computing despite falling short of the cut-off score.

Often, they demonstrate their aptitude for and interest in the field through other means, be it in the interview process or through some software they may have created.

NUS provost Ho Teck Hua feels it is important to recognise that developments in computing are rapid. Therefore, his advice is to pick a university where teaching and research in the field are at the cutting edge.

How do you ascertain that? One way is to look at the international rankings according to disciplines.

NUS, for example, was ranked ninth in the world last year for computer science and information systems by Times Higher Education and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), where significant weightage is given to research output.

Your son should study the job and salary prospects for computing graduates in the yearly survey results, which were released on Friday last week. 

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Disney+ won't allow VPN users to access overseas version of video streaming service

16 February 2021 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , News Media , Systems & Networking , Security

 

It may not be possible for some Singaporeans to get their fix of The Mandalorian Star Wars TV series by using technological tricks to watch an overseas version of Disney+, such as before the video streaming service launches here officially on Feb 23. The Walt Disney Company told The Straits Times that in line with the Disney+ subscriber agreement, it does not allow users to access Disney+ using a virtual private network - to bypass geographical restrictions - in a territory where the service is not yet live.

 Associate Professor Liang Zhenkai from the National University of Singapore (NUS) said that when a person uses a VPN, Disney cannot directly detect the overseas clients at the network level.

"These undetected IP addresses used by the VPN service are not easily blocked. If Disney gradually recognises the VPN provider's network, they can block it later," said Prof Liang, who is from NUS' Department of Computer Science.

This could happen if, for example, Disney detects a large number of unrelated users sending in requests from the same IP address, which suggests a delegation service like a VPN service is being used. But Prof Liang said that if the Disney+ app is used for streaming, there are other methods to recognise whether the client is from a different country, such as using the app store's region or global positioning system information of a mobile device.

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Greening The Net

20 January 2021 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , News Media , Systems & Networking

 

Life has gotten more digital than ever before. And the plusses of that for the environment has been clear…as in clear skies and clean air. What is not so clear however is this: when it comes to greenhouse gases, the Internet is responsible for 2% of global emissions. If the Internet were a country, it would be ranked as the sixth largest polluter in the world.

But the Internet is here to stay, so what can be done to make it greener? From individuals not hitting Reply All on emails or turning off Auto Play for videos, to data centres running on green energy and search engines giving back to the environment, host Prerna Pant looks at all the various ways we are Greening The ‘Net.

Pant also interviews Assistant Professor Trevor E. Carlson on how Internet usage is contributing to our carbon footprint.

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Three Singapore smart home hub, Wi-Fi router brands carry new cyber-security label

30 December 2020 Department of Information Systems & Analytics , Faculty , News Media , Security

 

Smart home hubs and Wi-Fi routers from local brands Aztech, HomeAuto Solutions and Prolink are the first technology products to carry cyber-security labels similar to the energy-efficiency labels on home appliances.

Sold on e-commerce platforms such as Lazada and Shopee, four products from these three brands have been given the Level 1 rating under the Cybersecurity Labelling Scheme (CLS), which is aimed at helping buyers gauge how exposed they are to risks.

The Level 1 rating means the device maker has ensured that there is a unique default password and that software updates are automatically pushed to the products. The CLS - a voluntary tiered rating system administered by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) - was launched in October.

Checks by The Straits Times found that the prices of the four CLS-labelled products are comparable to those of non-labelled counterparts. For instance, a single unit of the labelled Wi-Fi router from Prolink costs $150, while one unlabelled Wi-Fi router from TP-Link's Deco X20 line is priced at $149.

Experts have, however, said that labelled products could cost markedly more - such as when, for a higher rating, a manufacturer sends its product to an external laboratory to test its resistance to cyber attacks. This is because complying with the requirements for higher ratings involve "significant effort and resources", said Associate Professor Goh Khim Yong from the National University of Singapore's School of Computing.

While some consumers said they would be willing to pay a small premium for a more secure product, most indicated that they would prioritise other factors such as user-friendliness and reliability over cyber security.

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NUS scientists develop computational tool to help design safer devices

29 December 2020 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , News Media , Security

 

As the world embraces the Internet of Things (IoT), more and more everyday appliances are being connected to the Internet so that people can monitor those appliances remotely. While this makes our lives more convenient, there is a looming threat of cybercriminals using these devices to gain access to sensitive data.

Now, scientists from the National University of Singapore’s School of Computing (NUS Computing) have made it easier to guard against that. They have developed a software tool that can simulate hacker attacks, and which provide an automated way to protect the design. This helps designers create more secure computer chips.

The software works by simulating a physical hardware attack known as laser fault injection. To accomplish this on a real device, the cyber-criminal would first partially disassemble the hardware to gain access to its silicon chip without interrupting its operation. Then, they use a laser to generate a processor error. This throws the gates open, allowing them to extract data and security information.

Previously, it was expensive to protect chips against this kind of attack because they had to be tested manually. If the chip fails the test, the design must start over. The NUS software, called the Laser fault Attack Benchmark Suite or LABS, can now simulate attacks in a wide variety of situations and demonstrate how the chip reacts. All this can be done without having to manufacture a single chip. This helps chip designers figure out how to repel the attack, and even trick the attackers into thinking they have succeeded. With this software, chip manufacturers will be able to simulate any device, and results are available within minutes.

The NUS scientists, led by Assistant Professor Trevor E. Carlson and Professor Peh Li Shiuan, have made the software open source so researchers and the chip design community can use it, or help make it better.

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Just in time for Christmas: How Gratify plans to make gift-giving more efficient and sustainable

24 December 2020 Department of Information Systems & Analytics , Student , News Media , Social Media & Digital Business , Digital Transformation, Platforms & Innovation

 

Half of Singapore customers admitted that they are not happy with the gifts they have received.

“To prevent such loss in economic value and environmental damage, cash is theoretically the most efficient solution. However, giving cash as a gift is crude, and could be seen as derogatory. Hence, many people have resorted to getting gift cards, which is a convenient way to gift while reducing economic waste. This explains the rapid growth trends in the gift card market,” Gratify CEO & CFO Dao Xiong Teng explains in an email to e27.

But even gift cards are not perfect.

“If we think about it, most people would remove the price tags and the receipts from their gifts before giving them out, so that the dollar value is not so glaringly in-your-face. Yet, ironically, for gift cards, the dollar value is practically the gift itself,” Teng continues. “What we need is a gift that is as flexible as a gift card, but without having the gift value blatantly apparent and crude.”

This is the opportunity that local startup Gratify aims to seize. 

Launched earlier this month, the startup builds a platform to enable customers to purchase and send gifts to their loved ones. But what sets them apart from other e-commerce platform is that they provide options for gift recipients to receive, swap the gifts, or donate it to a charity.

The platform works by enabling the customer to choose from a wide array of products on their platform. Once they have checked out and given the recipient’s details, the recipient will be notified and be given the options.

If they choose to not accept the gift, for whatever reason, they can opt to swap it with a more suitable one as available on the Gratify platform. They can also choose to donate the value of the gift to a charity organisation that the startup is partnering with.

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Generation Grit: NUS undergrad with cerebral palsy plans on helping others like him

24 December 2020 Department of Computer Science , Student , News Media , Feature

 

The road to university can be difficult for any student, but Mr Ng Jun Kang had to overcome daily challenges that others gave no thought to. Like getting to class, for instance, or taking notes. Or even getting a drink of water.

The 22-year-old first year Computer Science undergraduate at the National University of Singapore has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, which was caused by a brain injury during birth.

Although his condition affects his muscle control, motor skills and his speech, it proved no obstacle to his achieving good grades and clinching scholarships. Quite the opposite, he argues.

"My condition has gifted me resilience and patience in everything that I do," he said.

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Beyond the classroom: Innovations that change the world

14 December 2020 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , News Media , Systems & Networking , Security

 

Lettuce, mint and even tomatoes – Singaporeans may soon be able to grow these vegetables and more in their HDB flats.

Having witnessed “a deep psychological fear” when COVID-19 sparked panic buying here, Toby Fong and his team – superFARM – decided to bolster the nation’s food security. Their plan? Encourage green fingers through home-based farming.

“When we think about food security, it’s usually at a national level so it almost feels like the individual (is disconnected) from the entire food security equation,” said Toby, who graduated with a Master’s from NUS Architecture this year.

Under the “Make Our People Better” category, Toby, NUS Computing graduate Lim Hui Qi and NUS Arts and Social Sciences graduate Ong Jun Ren will design modular farming units that can fit into the smallest of homes. These units can also be customised for bigger spaces.

The plan is to transform niche hydroponics systems into functional mini-farms. In the next six months, half of their $50,000 funding will go to research such as field testing and online surveys, while the rest will be used for prototype development.

The team also wants to expand the individual’s role in food security to make sustainability a way of life.

“We want to recalibrate people’s attitude and behaviour to encourage responsible food consumption,” said Toby.

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Robot vacuum cleaners can be used by hackers to 'spy' on private conversations: NUS study

08 December 2020 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , News Media , Systems & Networking , Security

 

When your robot vacuum cleaner does its work around the house, beware that it could pick up private conversations along with the dust and dirt. Computer scientists from NUS have demonstrated that it is indeed possible to spy on private conversations using a common robot vacuum cleaner and its built-in Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) sensor.

The novel method, called LidarPhone, repurposes the Lidar sensor that a robot vacuum cleaner normally uses for navigating around a home into a laser-based microphone to eavesdrop on private conversations.

The research team, led by Assistant Professor Jun Han from NUS Computer Science, and his doctoral student Mr Sriram Sami, managed to recover speech data with high accuracy. NUS students, Mr Dai Yimin and Mr Sean Tan Rui Xiang, as well as Assistant Professor Nirupam Roy from the University of Maryland, also contributed to this work.

Mr Sami shared, “The proliferation of smart devices – including smart speakers and smart security cameras – has increased the avenues for hackers to snoop on our private moments. Our method shows it is now possible to gather sensitive data just by using something as innocuous as a household robot vacuum cleaner. Our work demonstrates the urgent need to find practical solutions to prevent such malicious attacks.”'

The core of the LidarPhone attack method is the Lidar sensor, a device which fires out an invisible scanning laser, and creates a map of its surroundings. By reflecting lasers off common objects such as a dustbin or a takeaway bag located near a person’s computer speaker or television soundbar, the attacker could obtain information about the original sound that made the objects’ surfaces vibrate. Using applied signal processing and deep learning algorithms, speech could be recovered from the audio data, and sensitive information could potentially be obtained.

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New practices needed to stay safe online in era of working from home

08 December 2020 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , News Media , Systems & Networking , Security

 

Say "no" when your child asks to use your work laptop to do his schoolwork, or set up a different user account on the work laptop for different activities.

There are ways to reset habits and practices for a more digitally secure 2021 as working and e-learning from home become the new normal even after Covid-19, said panellists at The Straits Times Reset 2021 Webinar Series: Digitalisation And Cyber Security on Wednesday.

The panellists comprised of Associate Professor Steven Wong from the Singapore Institute of Technology, Mr David Koh, chief executive of the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore; Associate Professor Chang Ee-Chien from the National University of Singapore School of Computing; and Mr Benjamin Ang, head of the Cyber and Homeland Defence Programme at the Centre of Excellence for National Security, a policy research think-tank.

Prof Chang suggested segregating devices at home by individual or workflow. For example, as far as possible, children should use a different desktop or laptop from the ones their parents use for work.

"If that is not possible, then try to segregate by setting up different user accounts on a laptop. Even if you have your own machine, you can segregate accounts for work, for family, or for playing games," he said.

"Segregation is about setting up security parameters, so that when something happens within that parameter it will not spill over to other (areas)."

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Seven NUS professors lauded for their work and service

08 December 2020 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , News Media , Programming Languages & Software Engineering , Security

 

NUS has honoured seven exceptional educators, researchers and professionals at the NUS University Awards 2020. The annual event recognises individuals for their outstanding contributions in the areas of education, research and service to the University, Singapore and the global community.

Professor Dong Jin Song from the NUS' School of Computing was given the University Research Recognition Award for developing a software verification framework that has more than 4,000 users from over 150 countries.

NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye lauded the award winners for being role models for the university community. “Each award winner has exemplified the spirit of excellence with an indomitable spirit. They are truly esteemed individuals – beacons and pathfinders who inspire us to better ourselves and to scale new heights even in times of crisis. NUS is proud to celebrate their dedication and distinguished accomplishments,” he said.

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60 years of facial recognition: The hidden perils behind Singapore’s ‘facial recognition era’

27 November 2020 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , News Media , Security , Media

 

In recent years, the Singapore government has tapped on facial recognition for various purposes as part of its ‘smart nation’ initiative. For instance, Changi Airport’s Terminal 4 uses facial recognition technology for various purposes such as passenger check-in, immigration and boarding, while GovTech launched a launched the "Lamppost-as-a-Platform" project, which outfits some 95,000 traditional lampposts in the country with a network of wireless sensors and cameras to support urban and transportation planning and operations.

Associate Professor Terence Sim from the School of Computing at the National University of Singapore stated in an exclusive interview with China-based news website The Paper that there are trends of facial recognition technology being abused, and that laws protecting such technology could be further strengthened. He also elaborated further on privacy issues regarding such technology.

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Hackers hijacking WhatsApp accounts by asking for security codes

23 November 2020 Department of Computer Science , News Media , Systems & Networking , Security , Media

 

When a secondary school friend contacted him out of the blue a few months ago asking for a verification code on WhatsApp, administrative executive Tan Jun Heng, 25, did not suspect anything was amiss.

His friend simply claimed to have "accidentally" sent the code to his number. But within seconds of sending the code, Mr Tan was automatically locked out of his own WhatsApp account. It had been hijacked.

Mr Tan and his friends are among a growing pool of WhatsApp users who have become victims of social hacking, where scammers use already hijacked social media accounts to contact victims by posing as their friends or family.

National University of Singapore's Associate Professor Chang Ee-Chien, whose research interests include data privacy, said the impersonation tactics used by hackers are "very low-tech, but very effective, as people tend to trust their friends or family".

With full access to their victim's account, hackers may then exploit the victim's personal relationships and ask for money from friends or family. Or, if they glean enough information about their victim's place of employment, they may also target the victim's workplace, added Prof Chang. 

However, experts say, there are preventive measures that users can take to prevent such attacks.

Ms Wong and AiSP executive committee member James Tan said setting up a two-step verification process on your WhatsApp account can prevent others from signing in to it. Users should not click on suspicious looking links, even if they are purportedly from friends or family, they added.

For impersonation scams, however, "the only solution is to not trust people", said Prof Chang. He added: "It is very important that you must presume that whoever is speaking to you on the other end is not your friend."

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NUS team develops tool that can assess vulnerability of AI systems to attacks

10 November 2020 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , Research , News Media , Security

 

National University of Singapore (NUS) researchers have developed a tool to safeguard against a new form of cyber attack that can recreate the data sets containing personal information used to train artificial intelligence (AI) machines.

The tool, called the Machine Learning (ML) Privacy Meter, has been incorporated into the developer toolkit that Google uses to test the privacy protection features of AI algorithms.

In recent years, hackers have figured out how to reverse-engineer and reconstruct database sets used to train AI systems through an increasingly common kind of attack called a membership inference (MI) attack.

Assistant Professor Reza Shokri, who heads the research team behind ML Privacy Meter, said such attacks involve hackers repeatedly asking the AI system for information, analysing the data for a pattern, and then using the pattern to guess if a data record was used to train the AI system.

Prof Shokri likened MI attacks to thieves probing for weak spots in a house's walls and doors with a needle before breaking in. "But the thief is not going to break in with the needle. Now that he knows (where the weak spots are), he is going to come with a hammer and break the wall," he said.

ML Privacy Meter helps AI developers through a scorecard showing how accurately attackers could recreate the original data sets and suggests techniques to guard against actual MI attacks. The Privacy Meter is the result of three years of work to create an easy-to-use tool which helps programmers see where the weak spots in their algorithms are.

Google started using the tool earlier this year. The tool is open-source, meaning that it can be used for free by other researchers or companies around the world.

"Our main focus was to build an easy-to-use interface for anybody who knows machine learning, but might not know anything about privacy and cyber attacks," said Prof Shokri, who is Iranian by birth and moved to Singapore in 2017. 

The NUS research team that developed the Machine Learning Privacy Meter also consists of master's student Mihir Khandekar, 24, doctoral student Chang Hongyan, 24, research assistant Aadyaa Maddi, 22, and doctoral student Rishav Chourasia, 24.

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