S'pore: E-govt success lures cyber terrorists

S'pore: E-govt success lures cyber terrorists

Summary: The island-state's e-government services are a double-edged sword, offering benefits to its citizens but also opening itself up to the threat of cyber attacks.


SINGAPORE--The country's success in driving the use of e-government services across the island-state has intensified the threat of cyber terrorism, specifically due to the increasing number of locals now accessing government services online.

Speaking to members of the ISACA (Information Systems Audit and Control Association) conference held here Monday, Penny Low, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Singapore's Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, said e-government services such as the online business licensing services (OBLS) has benefited entrepreneurs by making it easier for them to set up shop in the island-state, and helping them to "save valuable time and resources". OBLS is an online portal where companies can register their business or obtain licenses required for their businesses, without having to go through the hassle of queuing up to get it done. Today, twelve and a half days is all that is needed to set up a business in the island-state.

"With the OBLS, we have now lowered the entry barriers for aspiring entrepreneurs [to register their business and to get their licenses]," Low said, adding that it now takes 12.5 days to process a new business application, compared to three weeks previously.

As such, it has resulted in "an accrued savings of about S$3 million (US$1.98 million) a year for the businesses", she said.

However, Low noted that due to an increased use of e-government services and the growing "connectedness" of citizens worldwide via the Internet, the threat of cyber terrorism is now "a very real concern".

As such, the government has placed emphasis on the security and management of these online sites, so as to ensure that Singapore remains a "secure and trusted hub in the region", she added.

Initiatives that the government has rolled out include the Infocomm Security Masterplan, which was launched in 2005 to protect the republic's critical infrastructure from cyber attacks, as well as to maintain a secure infocomm environment for the country, Low said.

"One of the key outcomes of this masterplan is the establishment of the national cyber threat monitoring scheme which went live in March this year," she noted, adding that the government has taken "significant steps" over the years to collaborate with international partners through CERTS (computer emergency response teams) to improve their collective ability to combat cyber threats.

Other efforts, Low noted, include an ongoing public education campaign--a concerted industry effort to raise public awareness of online security threats, as well as instilling confidence in its citizens to transact online, by putting in place legislation such as the Computer Misuse Act, the Electronic Transaction Act, the TrustSg framework and the Spam Control Bill.

Since Singapore embarked on its e-government journey in 2000, the government has invested some S$2.6 billion (US$1.6 billion) into three consecutive three-year projects, namely e-Government Action Plan I and II in 2000 and 2003 respectively, as well as the iGov 2010 last year. To date, approximately 1,600--or 98 percent of--government services can now be accessed online 24 hours and 7 days a week, Low said.

Topics: IT Employment, Government Asia, SMBs

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