Singapore Upgrades Cybersecurity

Singapore will intensify the use of technology to automate cyber security tasks such as the roll-out of software patches. Also, more security audits and drills will be carried out to sharpen public officers' readiness to respond to cyber incidents. These new measures to shore up the cyber security of public sector systems were disclosed by S Iswaran, Minister-in-charge of Cyber Security.

This new model of cyber defence will be implemented across 11 critical information infrastructure sectors, including healthcare, energy, telecommunications and transport.

The new approach is a response to the recommendations of a high-level Committee of Inquiry (COI) that investigated the cyber-attack on SingHealth, Singapore's largest cluster of healthcare institutions. Mr Iswaran said its findings and recommendations gave "added impetus" to the ongoing efforts of the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG) to improve the cyber security of government systems.

"In particular, the findings reaffirmed the 'defence-in-depth' approach the public sector had adopted towards cyber security."
He added: "The public sector will also continue to strengthen our defences on all fronts - people, process, technology and partnerships, as informed by the COI recommendations."

The recommendations were unveiled last week in a public report that recounted the events that led to June's cyber-attack that compromised the personal information of 1.5 million patients, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

On the technical front, SNDGG will look at improving the architecture of government systems to allow more extensive monitoring and detection of abnormal activities. It will also continue to introduce measures to better detect and respond to intrusions, and monitor critical databases. Acknowledging that the Government cannot fortify its cyber security alone, he said it will enlist the help of the larger cyber security community, including ethical hackers.

The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore will oversee and follow up on how the COI recommendations will be carried out in the 11 sectors.

Said Minister Iswaran, who is also Minister for Communications and Information: "The recommended measures will help us defend ourselves better against malicious cyber activities, including from international attackers. This was not the first instance where we were targeted, and it will not be the last."

Committe members Mr Vikram Nair and Mr Cedric Foo asked about the hackers' identity. Mr Foo, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Communications and Information, said: "How about the person who actually broke into the house? There seems to be a vacuum as far as the sense of justice goes." Replying, Mr Iswaran said: "I don't think we should deduce whether we have a sense of justice to just one specific point that there is no public attribution of the perpetrator."

Citing moves that the Government made in the spirit of transparency, he said Singapore can hold itself up to the best practices and standards. The moves include announcing the cyber attack on July 20 last year, 10 days after it was made known to the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, and convening a COI and releasing the recommendations and findings.

"I can understand that members have a desire and on behalf of constituents to know this, but I think we have to exercise judgment - what is in our national interest and whether a public attribution serves our best interests. And as I said, we know who the perpetrator is, appropriate action has been taken."

Straits Times

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