Singapore public sector reports yet another security lapse

Following a spate of data breaches affecting healthcare patients in Singapore, another lapse has occurred. A server containing personal information of 808,201 blood donors was not properly secured by a third-party vendor, potentially exposing data such as blood type and national identification number.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Following a spate of security breaches affecting healthcare patients in the country, another Singapore public sector agency has reported that personal information of 808,201 blood donors was left vulnerable after a third-party vendor failed to securely protect a server containing the data. The database contained registration-related information such as donors' name and national identification number and, in some instances, blood type and weight. 

The external contractor, Secur Solutions Group, was provided the data for updating and testing. Secur stored the information in a web-connected server on January 4 this year, according to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), and was made aware of the security hole on March 13.

The Singapore government agency said in a statement on Friday that a cybersecurity expert had uncovered the vulnerability and alerted the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC). The health agency said one of Secur's servers had contained the database, but "was not adequately safeguarded against access over the internet" and the vendor had failed to implement adequate measures to prevent unauthorised access. 

It added that the system did not contain other medical or contact information. 

A police report was made and access to the database was disabled, HSA said. It noted that the cybersecurity expert who reported the vulnerability had said he would not publish the contents in the database and was working with the agency on deleting the data.

Citing preliminary findings and its review of the database logs, HSA said no other unauthorised individual had accessed the database. 

HSA CEO Mimi Choong apologised for the security lapse and said the agency was stepping up checks and monitoring its vendors. 

In a note to donors, it said Secur's failure to properly secure its server was "done without HSA's knowledge and approval" and "contrary to its contractual obligations" with the agency. 

This incident follows a series of data security breaches in recent months that saw the personal information of 1.5 million SingHealth patients and 14,200 individuals with HIV compromised. 

In a reply to a public member earlier this month, the PDPC said it was currently reviewing the country's Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) to "keep pace" with the needs of businesses and individuals. Its proposed updates included a mandatory breach notification regime. However, it also noted that the public sector was not governed by the PDPA and was, instead, separately regulated by the Public Sector (Governance) Act


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