November - Cyber world: Hope the master-plan works next year

In a irony of sorts, the same year government launched a five-year National Cyber Security Master-plan 2018 to further secure Singapore's cyber environment”, the country faced it's biggest-ever hacker attack in November, where government, town council and media websites were compromised within days. Even school websites were not spared. Reports of sensitive financial data belonging to Standard Chartered bank being stolen also surfaced. The Edward Snowden saga reached Singapore's shores as well when leaked NSA maps published by few international media organisations in November alleged that Singapore is a key “third player” supporting the United States “Five Eyes” surveillance network; which the Singapore government denied. Also, the government's new licensing regime for online “news” websites announced in May remained controversial throughout the year. 

National Cyber Security Masterplan (NCSM) 2018

On July 24, the government launched a five-year NCSM to “further secure Singapore's cyber environment. Developed through a multi-agency effort led by Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) under the guidance of the National Infocomm Security Committee (NISC), the Masterplan provides an overarching strategic direction to help Government and organisations in strengthening resilience against cyber threats”. IDA said that the plan is intended to focus on developing Singapore as a trusted and robust infocomm hub by 2018. Earlier in March, the government had set up a cyber security lab to help law enforcers hone their ability to counter attacks.

The attacks

In October, November and December, the country faced a series of hack attacks allegedly by the hacktivist organisation, Anonymous, represented by a member who went by the online handle, The Messiah. In all, websites of the Prime Minister's Office, the Istana, City Harvest Church, Strait Times, Seletar Airport, few town councils, 13 schools and several others, were compromised. A certain James Raj Arokiasamy and few others have been arrested and investigations are on.


New licensing rules

The Messiah claimed that the hack attacks were in protests against the new licensing rules introduced in June by the Media Development Authority (MDA). According to the new rules, online news sites that report at least one article a week on news related to Singapore over a period of two months, and have at least 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore each month over a period of two months, will require individual licenses to be issued by the MDA. Additionally, these sites will need to put out a performance bond of S$50,000 to acquire the license, and licensees will be required to remove "prohibited content" within 24 hours of being notified to do so. Several socio-political websites and bloggers calling themselves- Free My Internet – organised protests, both online and offline, in June and called on the MDA to roll-back the new licensing regime.