Security & Fraud

Singapore Cuts Off Internet Access For Public Healthcare Workers

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Singapore has moved to disconnect computers from the internet at public centers in an effort to stop cyberattacks that could have the potential to spread around the globe.

Reuters, citing Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean of Singapore, reported that public healthcare institutions weren't part of a 2016 effort to shut off web access to civil servants to protect against hackers, but that now it is including them. Officials can access the internet with their own personal devices or those issued by the government agency.

“We could, and should, have implemented internet surfing separation on public healthcare systems, just as we have done on our public sector systems,” Teo said in a speech at an engineering conference. “This would have disrupted the cyber kill-chain for the hackers and reduced the surface area exposed to attack. This has now been done.”

In a statement to Reuters, the health ministry in Singapore said the recent change will create some inconveniences for patients and healthcare staff, given that some IT systems need a connection with the internet. The thought is that if the computer used by government workers is connected to an internal network instead of the internet, it could reduce the chances of the government getting hacked.

In late June, in what has been described as a serious breach, Reuters reported that Singapore experienced a major cyberattack on its health database. The personal information of 1.5 million individuals was reportedly stolen in the incident. A statement from the government at the time said that “investigations by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) and the Integrated Health Information System (IHiS) confirmed that this was a deliberate, targeted and well-planned cyberattack.”

Patients who went to clinics over a period ranging from May of 2015 to July 4 of 2018 had information of a non-medical nature accessed and duplicated. And the hackers had another target: They “specifically and repeatedly targeted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s personal particulars and information on his outpatient dispensed medicines,” according to the statement.

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