JAYA PRAKASH's picture
Much Ado about Cyber
Posted on Jul 17, 2017

Singapore is sitting at one of Asia’s most strategically vulnerable hotspots, and is pulling out all the stops to prevent terrorists from ever ‘disfiguring’ it in the way the United States, Australia and Britain have so painfully experienced.

All surrounding nations, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, have been hit or savaged by terrorism. So far, the city-state has been saved.

Since the dawn of globalized terrorism – the Sept 11 attacks in the United States – Singapore has stood as an oasis of peace and tranquility amid the carnage breaking out all around her neighbourhood and around the world. Officials here recognize that it's time to take action to ensure continued safety.

‘Singapore is a key target. We have taken part in international coalitions against terrorism, and we represent many things that are anathema to ISIS. We are a secular democracy. We are also host to many economic and commercial interests belonging to Western nations that ISIS considers as "infidels". We will continue to be a target as ISIS comes under siege in Syria and Iraq and aims to export its fight overseas in a show of prowess’, said Singapore’s Home Affairs Ministry, the equivalent of America’s Homeland Security Department.

Singapore hosts U.S. military facilities, and thousands of foreign businesses are also located here, in fact, some 40% of its 5.5 million population is foreign-based.

The compact nature of the city, plus the fact that it has always lined up behind the US and denounced terror attacks in all manner and form, whenever and wherever they happen, have invariably made her a prized catch for attacks.

Not since the 1980s, when Singapore initiated Total Defence – a comprehensive national effort to ensure the nation’s complete defence preparedness encompassing psychological, military and economic readiness – coupled with the routine mobilization of reservists, has a new and completely unexpected foe emerged in cyber space to harass and threaten it.

What really swung the proverbial pendulum, was the breach early this year of information networks of the nation’s defence ministry, resulting in the theft of personal data of some 800 or more personnel. That critical breach was in its I-Net system, compelling the ministry to disconnect it from all other servers.

"The attack on the I-Net appeared to be targeted and was carefully planned", the ministry lamented in a media release. It was actually an attempt to pilfer state secrets, which was particularly worrisome.  

The shadowy attacks – coupled with incidences of an assailant planning to assassinate the Prime Minister and sitting President, along with the fact with the hacking of the website of the Prime Minister’s office, and the arrest of radicalized policemen – have justifiably caused significant hand-wringing within the city-state.

For that reason and all other ancillary causes, Singapore is urgently formulating actions and counter actions to enact a cyber security law; an empowerment it hopes will deny terrorists that one last tool with which to burnish their credentials.

– Jaya Prackash is a defence and security journalist based in Singapore