The Rise of Cyber-Attacks in Singapore

Singapore witnessed its worst cyber-attack to date, when hackers targeted healthcare system software to steal information of 1.5 million people, including that of the Prime Minister.

Singapore Cyber Attack
Singapore witness worst cyber-attack in history

The prevalence of cyber-attacks has rapidly increased throughout the world. They keep evolving to become more sophisticated with time, in response to preventive measures taken by security organizations and governments. No matter how advanced intrusion detection systems are, hackers always find a way to surpass the firewall and wreak havoc by taking control of the system. The latest major cyber-attack occurred in Singapore, in which the personal information of about 1.5 million people, including that of Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, was stolen.

Singapore has recently witnessed a wave of such cyber-attacks on their system. In 2017, the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) were the victims of similar attack as well. However, the magnitude of the recent attack is far severe than its predecessors – deeming it to be the worst cyber-attack in Singapore’s history. Hackers, in this case, targeted patients who visited Singapore’s outpatient clinics. Their personal details and prescription records for the past three years were stolen using advanced sophisticated tools. One such tool, a customized malware, was able to bypass the antivirus software and security tools of SingHealth – a leading Singapore Healthcare Provider. The hackers also managed to remain undetected in the system for over a year, during which they managed to steal crucial information, including that of PM Hsien Loong.

Once it was detected, the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) conducted a detailed analysis of the attack and determined it was the act of an advanced persistent threat (ATP) group. ATP group, a class of sophisticated attackers, have been known to conduct extended, carefully planned cyber campaigns to disrupt operations or steal information. In addition to being responsible for the 2017 attack on NUS and NTU, ATP has also hacked the United States (US) Democratic National Committee in 2016 and the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in 2014 – stealing more than 20 million personnel records. “The ATP group is usually state-linked”, said S Iswaran, the Minister for Communications and Information. He also added, “Government agencies had a high level of confidence in the identity of the attackers but not enough evidence to take legal action”.

After the news of the cyber-attack surfaced, various dignitaries from several Southeast Asian nations met with Russia to sign a pact concerning the issue of growing number of cyber-attacks originating from the country. Russia, accused of meddling in U.S. elections, didn’t agree to sign the pact. This was a major blow to various Southeast nations, whose crippling internet infrastructure is seen as a weak point for advanced Russian hackers.

However, things are looking up for Singapore, as CLOUDSEC, a global community for cybersecurity experts and professionals, is set to host its eighth annual internet security conference in Hong Kong on August 14, 2018. The conference, with a theme of “The Freedom to Connect”, will bring together renowned industry experts from business and organizations to collectively address the increasingly complex landscape of cyber-attacks and skill gaps in cybersecurity. In a hyper-connected world, it’s imperative to re-evaluate and redefine the understanding of threats, risks, and solutions to implement resilient strategies and solutions.