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Singapore lifts halt on Smart Nation projects; 11 critical sectors told to cut off Internet access

THE Government has lifted the pause on new Smart Nation projects which had been imposed after the SingHealth cyber attack and has instructed all 11 critical services sectors here to take additional steps to raise the level of security.

In a joint statement on Friday, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group said it has completed its review of the public sector's cyber-security policies and will implement additional protection measures for critical government systems "to strengthen the ability to detect and respond quickly to cyber-security threats".

The review was done following SingHealth's massive data breach disclosed last month that compromised the personal data of 1.5 million SingHealth patients. The breach in June is Singapore's worst cyber attack.

The Cyber Security Agency (CSA) of Singapore said it has instructed the 11 critical sectors here - including healthcare, energy, banking and telecommunications - to step up their security.

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The additional security measures include:

All connections to unsecured external networks to be removed, a process also known as Internet surfing separation. If there are strong business or operational reasons to keep the Internet connections, these should be mediated through unidirectional gateways to prevent data leakage, said CSA.

A unidirectional gateway is a network appliance or device allowing data to travel only in one direction, to guarantee information security.

And should two-way communication between the secured network and unsecured external network be required, a secured informational gateway has to be implemented, CSA added.

A secured informational gateway allows all data it carries to be encrypted, providing the highest level of security.

Government systems have implemented "significant measures", including cutting off Internet access on work systems over the past three years to remove "unnecessary external connections with unsecured networks".

"While the Government will continue to review and upgrade its security measures to guard against new threats and strengthen its infrastructure, it is not possible to completely eliminate the risk of cyber-security attacks.

"We should not allow such incidents to hold us back in building a Smart Nation and digital Government. We need to persist in our efforts to harness the potential of the digital age, while building deeper expertise in cyber security so that we can do so confidently," both agencies said in the statement.

THE STRAITS TIMES