Singapore’s Internet cutoff: The why and how of it

  • Singapore Government is a prime target for cyber-attacks
  • ‘It was a very carefully considered decision made over many years’
Singapore’s Internet cutoff: The why and how of it

 
IN June, the Singapore Government decided that it would cut off Internet access from all civil servants’ computers starting from next May.
 
It was a decision that was not taken lightly, says Jacqueline Poh (pic above), chief executive-designate of the Government Technology Agency (GovTech).
 
The Government’s cybersecurity-led decision to separate Internet surfing from public servants’ computers come May 2017 was a hard decision, made in the light of the increasing severity of cyber-attacks and our responsibility to safeguard citizens’ data,” she says.
 
“It was a very carefully considered decision made over many years, and we had thought through many alternative solutions.
 
“However, in order to build a secure and resilient Smart Nation, we decided the minor inconvenience of surfing on different devices was a small trade-off for the greater good,” she tells Digital News Asia (DNA) via email.
 
Poh is currently managing director of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), which is being merged with the Media Development Authority (MDA) to place all ICT and media activities within a single agency.
 
GovTech is being spun out of this merged entity to act as the Government’s chief information office, and to lead the digital transformation of Singapore’s public sector services in view of its Smart Nation vision.
 
As with any organisation dealing with IT, cybersecurity remains a big challenge for GovTech as well, Poh admits.
 
“As the Government’s cybersecurity lead, we recognise that the Singapore Government is a prime target for cyber-attacks, and these cyber-attacks are evolving in sophistication and frequency every day,” she says.
 
“As the implementer for whole-of-government ICT policies, it is inevitable that trade-offs be made,” she adds, in reference to the restriction on civil servants’ computers.
 
The decision was lambasted by Singapore-based bloggers, while the security industry itself had a mixed reaction.
 
While recognising that the Government had a greater responsibility to the safety and privacy of its citizens, many questioned the effectiveness of such a strategy and suggested the trade-offs were just not worth it.
 
GovTech is the agency responsible for seeing this through.
 
“Over the next few months, the GovTech team will be helping all government agencies through change management processes,” says Poh.
 
“We will also develop and implement alternative solutions to ensure continued productivity even as we work towards separating Internet surfing from all work devices,” she adds.
 
Previous Instalment: New agency aims to be a ‘govt startup’ for Singapore’s Smart Nation
 
 
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