Complacency is Singapore's worst enemy

Complacency is Singapore's worst enemy

Summary: Merry 2012 peeps! May the new calendar year and upcoming dragon lunar year bring good tidings to one and all.

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TOPICS: Singapore
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Merry 2012 peeps! May the new calendar year and upcoming dragon lunar year bring good tidings to one and all.

This week hasn't been all that great, however, for several organizations in Singapore which witnessed a string of site and service outages and security breaches.

It started with online payment portal, eNets, which went down for 11 hours on Tuesday leaving local users unable to access the site and pay for e-government and other retail services.

Operated by Network for Electronic Transfers Singapore (Nets), the portal "outage" was reportedly due to a very simple oversight--it forgot to renew its domain name. According to local daily The Straits Times, the eNets domain name had expired. The payment company has since renewed it for just one more year, until Jan. 3, 2013.

Outages that day spread to telecom operator SingTel, which customers found themselves unable to access 3G services on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. The operator told us that the disruptions were due to two separate glitches that afflicted its network.

Network problems then went on to hit the National University of Singapore (NUS) which, on Thursday, confirmed hacker group Team Intra had breached its database and published information that included NUS staff usernames and passwords.

When contacted, the university stressed that the affected server was an isolated system which wasn't linked to the NUS network. It added that the leaked passwords were "for local accounts that allow access to the departmental server only".

I think it missed the point. Isolated or otherwise, its system was breached--even if the data the hackers got away with weren't terribly critical by the university's definition.

What was undeniably critical, though, were the unauthorized withdrawals scambags--I mean, scammers--in Malaysia got away with at the expense of DBS and POSB customers. The local bank (DBS acquired the latter in 1998) said it was investigating reports of unauthorized fund withdrawals affecting some 200 customers and amounting to S$200,000. The withdrawals were made in Malaysia through the customers' ATM and Debit cards, even though the users' and their cards remained in Singapore.

Four service incidents in as many days. News-wise, it was an exciting week for us at ZDNet Asia, but it certainly doesn't bode well for Singapore which already has been embattled with various other "disruptions", including a series of train breakdowns, flooding--not ponding--and an apparent lack of social media "grace" among its local politicians.

The core of all these problems, I believe, is complacency, plain and simple. Complacency because there is little competition in the market, which would have otherwise underscored the urgency to always improve one's services. Complacency from a mentality that if it ain't broke, yet, then don't fix it.

And when things do break, it's complacency that has resulted in these organizations choosing to point the fingers elsewhere and denying accountability, instead of taking responsibility and finding actual solutions to address the problems.

Such inaction also stems from a misguided assumption that since a practice has been allowed to go on for years, then it must be right.

It's time these organizations that have sat on their hands previously to start looking hard at its internal infrastructure and recognizing the need to always seek improvements--even if they have no competition, even if they feel no real urgency to do so.

And they should do so before their customers vote them out of the market.

Topic: Singapore

About

Eileen Yu began covering the IT industry when Asynchronous Transfer Mode was still hip and e-commerce was the new buzzword. Currently a freelance blogger and content specialist based in Singapore, she has over 16 years of industry experience with various publications including ZDNet, IDG, and Singapore Press Holdings.

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5 comments
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  • "And when things do break, it's complacency that has resulted in these organizations choosing to point the fingers elsewhere and denying accountability, instead of taking responsibility and finding actual solutions to address the problems."

    Specifically which organizations are you referring to? Your sweeping statement would include NETS, NUS, SingTel and DBS.

    "The core of all these problems, I believe, is complacency, plain and simple. Complacency because there is little competition in the market, which would have otherwise underscored the urgency to always improve one's services. "

    There is little competition facing DBS? Are you now an expert on the financial industry in Singapore as well?
    NSH-49438
  • I agreed with the writer. She is stating that DBS is the leading bank of Singapore-> government owned. Who do we have other than DBS/POSB as a government owned? I suppose majority of the singaporeans have a DBS/POSB account as it is encourage by most companies here to get one as our monthly pay is credited in their account.

    Btw, NSH do you read news at all from various channels? internet, papers? It is clearly complacency that problems keep arising. Can you believe there is no proper maintenance is done on the train you took daily? Can you accept the amount of risks and hazards that will occur when u take the train? If you suggest that they done maintenance, how can they not spot dislodged crawls and a few damage trains? Its only when things happen they are able to spot it in matter of hours?
    icestorm-199b3
  • ** From a system safety analyst(engineer) in government owed company :)
    icestorm-199b3
  • Dear Eileen,

    I totally agree with you. In the last 2 years, I have been sharing with others that it is OKAY to be Contented but NOT Complacent. The typical excuse of.. "you know how lucky you are (to be in Singapore)"... "other countries are (the negative stuffs about other countries)".

    Last month in the local newspaper. Thailand flood is put in the headline of ZaoBao but the Thomson area flood was put in the local corner. When has Bangkok become our city but Thomson becomes "another" country news? Embracing one's weakness is strength. Not trying to run away.

    Yours truly, Fusioncat
    fusioncat
  • Eileen, the Chinese calendar is *not* a lunar calendar - if it were, the dates of re-occuring events, like that of the Spring Festival, would wander all over our solar calendar, as do, say, the dates for Ramadan in the Islamic calendar - but a so-called lunisolar calendar, which adds intercalary months to a lunar calendar in order to track the tropical year. Thus the Spring Festival always begins within half a month (on either side) of the last day of January/first day of February....

    Henri
    mhenriday