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THE Singapore government has been the target of some "very sophisticated" cyber attacks over the years, both from within Singapore and abroad, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters at the end of his three-day official visit to Myanmar, Mr Lee said the move to block Internet access from the work computers of civil servants was "necessary" to ensure the government networks remain safe and secure.
It was revealed on Wednesday that about 100,000 computers in use by the public service will be cut off from the Internet from May 2017.
"We've reached this point, and we've decided to do this. Are we happy? I don't think so, because it will slow us down in terms of day-to-day productivity. But in terms of the security and safety of our systems, the safety of our citizens and the information concerning them, it's absolutely necessary," he said.
"Otherwise one day you find all your NRIC numbers, addresses and income tax returns for sale on the Internet, one package of 10 gigabytes. How will the government explain?"
Mr Lee, who himself has gone without Internet access on his work computer for the last four months, said that while the damage done to the government's network has not been disastrous, it was better to take the precautions now.
He admitted he was surprised when the impending Internet lockdown made the front pages of the newspapers.
"I saw some of the reactions. People got quite excited. Maybe we didn't explain it enough. But it's not to do with being liberal or not being liberal. It's about being safe and secure, and doing what is necessary," he said.