The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA), and the Elections Department (ELD) on Monday (20 April) issued advisories to the political parties about the threat of foreign interference in elections and cybersecurity risks.
In the advisories published on the ELD website, the authorities cautioned that Singapore is “not immune” to the foreign interference in elections, which had happened in other countries during elections.
It said, “We need to guard against such nefarious activity as we head towards our own General Election (GE), which must be held by April 2021.”
Citing the examples of presidential elections that happened in the United States, France, as well as the federal elections in German and Italy, the authorities defined foreign interference as the attempts by foreign actors such as countries, agencies, and people attempt to assert influence over elections in a sovereign state.
The authorities said that it also provides information on the methods used by foreign actors to interfere in elections, such as disinformation, identity falsification, campaign financing, and cultivation of political entities, which stated in the advisory.
According to the Ministry, these methods will be used to shape the voting behaviour of the electorate in a manner consistent with the desired political outcomes of the foreign actor.
While noting Singapore is a highly digitally-connected nation, the authorities asserted, “We need to also guard against opportunistic attempts to disrupt our election processes, to cast doubts on the integrity of our GE, and attack the credibility of our Government.”
Other than foreign interference, the confidence of electorates during election have also been affected due to the malicious cyber activities such as disruptions, defacement, or data theft that observed in the elections in other countries, the statement said.
As such, the authorities urged the political parties and candidates to be responsible for their own cybersecurity, strengthen their cybersecurity posture, while taking precautions to protect their assets and online presence, including all IT infrastructure such as smartphone, computer and computing device, online and social media assets, data storage and management.
The authorities remarked, “Political parties play an important role in safeguarding the integrity of our GE. They should enhance their understanding of the threat of foreign interference, and their cybersecurity posture.”
The political parties are advised to remain vigilant to monitor their platforms for suspicious activity and not re-share posts or tweets of suspicious provenance.
If any political parties and candidates detected or suspected foreign actors interfere in elections, or misused of their account or system, they are urged to make a police report immediately while informing ELD, the statement read.
ELD said next GE must be held by 14 April 2021, opposition party urged to hold off elections
ELD announced on 3 April that the next GE must be held by 14 April 2021 and a bill that sets out contingency plans to ensure a safe election during the COVID-19 outbreak will be tabled in Parliament.
It noted that the Bill contains the necessary legislative provisions to allow ELD to implement temporary arrangements to ensure the safety of voters, candidates, and election officials during parliamentary elections held on or before 14 April 2021.
Contractors for ELD are purportedly already in preparations for an election in one or two months’ time, such as posting job advertisement relating to elections preparation on various job seeking platforms and conducted training session for participants to provide logistic support for the election.
However, various opposition parties had called out the ruling party to hold off the elections until the clear signs of COVID-19 pandemic given that it would be too risky for public health if the elections held amid the unprecedented situation of COVID-19.