SingHealth fiasco: Interim Internet Surfing Separation measures taken by three national healthcare clusters

SingHealth fiasco: Interim Internet Surfing Separation measures taken by three national healthcare clusters

Following the cyberattack on SingHealth earlier this month, temporary Internet surfing separation measures have been implemented within the three public healthcare clusters on 23 July in a bid to strengthen IT security systems.

In a press release by the Ministry of Health (MOH), it was stated that two other public healthcare clusters – National Healthcare Group (NHG), which serves the northern parts of the island, and National University Health System (NUHS), which serves the west – have subsequently done the same on 23 July, following SingHealth’s Internet separation on 20 July.

MOH said that while public hospitals and polyclinics will strive “to ensure that patient safety and clinical care are not compromised”, the temporary Internet separation might result in “a longer wait for consultations” and in receiving their test results, “as well as delays in checking their MediSave accounts or making their claims”.

MOH added that patients “may have to be re-directed through a different process from the usual route”.

The Ministry reasoned that the temporary Internet separation is a part of their effort in containing and “monitoring measures implemented to further protect patient data against emerging forms of cyber threats”.

“Other measures that have since been put in place include additional controls on workstations and servers, reset of user and systems accounts, and installation of additional system monitoring controls on IT systems,” according to MOH’s statement.

The Ministry added that “Interim alternatives are being deployed to departments requiring internet access, including separate shared workstations for connection to the internet where needed” to carry out any work involving the use of the Internet.

On 20 July, local authorities announced that the personal data of 1.5 million patients in SingHealth’s IT systems — including that of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong — was illegally accessed and subsequently exfiltrated in what is deemed to be the largest and most serious cyberattack on Singapore to date.

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