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Memorandum of Understanding on Cybersecurity Cooperation Signed by the Treasury and MAS

The United States Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (“MAS”) announced the finalisation of a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (“MoU”) on Cybersecurity Cooperation. This announcement was made during Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Singapore, where both the US and Singapore recognised the importance of deepening cooperation in new domains to deal with the challenges of the 21st century.

The Treasury and MAS have had ongoing exchange of cyber threat information since 2018. The MoU formalises and strengthens what has already been a strong cybersecurity partnership between both agencies.

Specifically, the MoU enhances cooperation between Treasury and MAS in the following areas:

  • Information sharing relating to the financial sector including cybersecurity regulations and guidance, cybersecurity incidents, and cybersecurity threat intelligence;
  • Staff training and study visits to promote cooperation in the area of cybersecurity; and
  • Competency-building activities such as the conduct of cross-border cybersecurity exercises.

Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen said, “The United States and Singapore have a longstanding bilateral partnership. In our interconnected world, Treasury and MAS share common goals of maintaining strength and stability, as well as operational and cyber resilience in each country’s economy and financial system. The cybersecurity cooperation agreement will serve to improve the cyber resilience of both countries’ financial systems.”

Managing Director of MAS Ravi Menon said, “Given the growing complexity of cyber attacks and how interconnected the global financial system is, close cooperation is essential to ensure the cyber resilience of our financial systems. This MoU between the US Treasury and MAS will be particularly useful in the areas of cyber threat information sharing and cross-border cybersecurity exercises. It will also help cement what is already a strong and fruitful partnership between our two institutions.”

At the beginning of August, Ms Loo Siew Yee, Assistant Managing Director (Policy, Payments and Financial Crime), Monetary Authority of Singapore, gave a keynote speech at the Wealth Management Institute Industry Forum on the Future of Anti-Money Laundering with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Elements from the speech tie in with the MoU as she addressed key issues being faced in the 21st century.

“We are keen to have FIs adopt data analytics in a manner that is commensurate with the risk profile of the business. Let me talk through briefly three key elements this morning.

  • At the customer level – to know your customer better, proactively detect and assess changes in customers’ risk profile in a dynamic fashion;
  • At the network level – to identify and disrupt illicit fund flows between customers in a network, so taking a more holistic rather than a silo view of the customer’s behaviours and activities; and
  • At the system level – to amplify the effectiveness of data analytics through close collaboration between the public and private sectors, as well as within the industry.

“We need to build defences at all levels and mobilising these three data analytics elements together will engender a paradigm shift in the disruption of financial crime.”

Suspicious customers are not exclusive to Singapore or Asia – they are found everywhere. Siew Yee pointed out that criminals are now cooperating, meaning that those protecting data must share expertise or fear being overrun.

“Dynamic customer risk assessment is a significant improvement but more still needs to be done. As criminals collude via sophisticated illicit financial networks, focusing on an entity-level assessment may ‘miss the forest for the trees’ and fail to detect those seemingly innocuous transactions are actually part of a larger and nefarious web of activity.

“Several FIs have successfully applied network link analysis to detect and visualise connections among customers and their transaction flows with greater ease. This has proven particularly useful in the detection of networks of shell and front companies or nominees used to facilitate illicit activities. In the wealth management industry, such techniques have uncovered unusual links and transaction flows and concealment of true beneficial owners.”

Author

  • Francis is a junior journalist with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

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