by Augustine Low
The United States’ White House and Pentagon, along with the European Union governments, have declared that state sponsored cyberattacks constitute an “act of war.”
But the massive hacking of SingHealth – ostensibly by a foreign country – is described by authorities only as “the most serious breach of personal data.”
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also said nothing alarming was stolen and no “dark state secret” was uncovered by the hackers.
Perhaps they are trying not to cause undue concern to Singaporeans. But the gravity of it cannot be played down.
While others are calling such state cyberattacks an “act of war,” our authorities are calling it a “serious breach.”
Remember, too, that the SingHealth hack comes in the wake of other cyberattacks, including one on MINDEF. It was reported then that the MINDEF hack was “not the work of casual hackers or criminal gangs.”
In the latest SingHealth cyberattack, it has been reported that the authorities have established who might be behind the attack.
But David Koh, chief executive of the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, said he is “not able to reveal more because of operational security reasons.”
Experts say there are only a few countries in the world with the level of sophistication to carry out such cyberattacks. Top of the list are the United States, North Korea, Russia and China.
Singapore, ironically, recently hosted and sponsored a Trump-Kim summit to try and bring peace to the world and is friendly to almost every country, including those with brutal dictatorships like North Korea.
Which makes it even more alarming that the friendly and peace-loving country should be targeted – not once but repeatedly.
Why are the citizens not better informed of what exactly is known about such cyberattacks?
When the data of film studio Sony Pictures as hacked, investigators combed through software, techniques and network sources and concluded that North Korea was the perpetrator.
When the United States 2016 presidential campaign was hacked, investigations were carried out and it was announced to Americans and the world that the Russians were behind it. Sanctions were imposed and indictments served on 12 members of the Russian intelligence agency.
These are just two instances of how essential information uncovered through investigations – including action taken – was shared with the public, who has the right to know.
Will Singaporeans be perennially kept in the dark?
Could something even more sinister happen? Could our military and commercial satellite communications be targeted one day?