S'pore 'has to take hacking seriously'

S'pore 'has to take hacking seriously'

SINGAPORE - The recent spate of hacking incidents has to be taken seriously given Singapore's heavy reliance on information technology for many aspects of daily life, Law Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday at a dialogue with students.

Hacking is "nothing short of terrorism" if lives are endangered, say, when air-traffic control systems are breached, he added.

Addressing some 75 SIM Global Education students at SIM University, he noted that a netizen had written that the recent hacking incidents were a "pretty mild act of resistance", and that violent action is acceptable if it was "well-targeted".

Mr Shanmugam said he was glad most Singaporeans did not hold that view.

Earlier on Wednesday, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim expressed the same sentiment in a Facebook post, writing that "many Singaporeans have taken a stand against those who threatened our country's computer systems and websites".

Mr Shanmugam framed the recent incidents - websites belonging to the Istana and Prime Minister's Office (PMO) were among those hacked into - as just a few steps removed from bolder attacks.

Hackers could target the power grid, for example, disrupting emergency surgery in hospitals or the work of air-traffic controllers. He likened the hackers' act to that of people who threaten to set fire to others' homes to get their way.

Mr Shanmugam, who is also the Foreign Minister, touched on the topic after being asked why the Government has taken such a harsh stance on hackers even though the recent incidents did not cause serious damage.



A 35-year-old Singaporean, James Raj Arokiasamy, was charged in court last week for allegedly defacing the Ang Mo Kio Town Council website last month.

Allegedly calling himself "The Messiah", he is believed to have created the Oct 29 YouTube video threatening cyber attacks in protest against the Media Development Authority's (MDA) licensing rules for news websites.

Separately, five men are being investigated for hacking into the PMO and Istana websites.

Dr Yaacob likened hacking to "someone coming into your home uninvited". "They snoop around, leave their mark or steal your valuables. They damage your property, and violate your personal privacy," he added.

Mr Shanmugam, meanwhile, said hacking government websites and disrupting state services is akin to an attack on Singaporeans since these exist for citizens' benefit. And while the recent cases resulted only in the affected websites being defaced, they could cause a loss of confidence in Singapore's IT resiliency, he added.

Asked whether enforcement efforts against hacking would encourage retaliation, Mr Shanmugam said people should expect that hacking incidents would continue.

The best Singapore can do is to protect its IT systems and learn to recover and move on from such incidents, he added.

The minister also said that MDA's rules had been "misunderstood and mischaracterised for political reasons", adding that licensing regulations had been around for over 20 years and were just being extended online to news websites.


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