SINGAPORE: Cyberattackers steal 1.5m citizens’ details, including PM’s

Ben Davidson
July 23, 2018

Singapore faced a major cyberattack that stole 1.5 million people's personal health information, including that of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the government announced on Friday.

"The attackers specifically and repeatedly targeted Lee's personal particulars and information on his outpatient dispensed medicines", the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said in a joint press statement.

"The security and confidentiality of patient information is a top priority", Prime Minister Lee said Friday in a Facebook post responding to the hack. They subsequently managed to obtain privileged account credentials to gain privileged access to the database.

Patients' personal particulars such as name, NRIC number, address, gender, race, and date of birth were reportedly stolen by hackers.

No phone numbers, financial information or other patient medical records were illegally accessed.

Patients' medical records, including past diagnoses, doctors' notes and health scans, were not affected.

The breach of the health database comes during a week when fears over data leaks have resulted in tens of thousands opting out of Australia's My Health Record system. It was established that data was exfiltrated from 27 June 2018 to 4 July 2018. He said: "With cyber attackers getting better-skilled by the day, it's not surprising to see breaches happen despite our best efforts".

The government believes that the cyber attack was well planned by professionals and it is likely that the motive was to find state secrets.

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In February, the United States and UK said that the Russian military was behind a "malicious" cyber-attack on Ukraine past year that spread globally.

The government is working to reinforce cyber security with the support of specialists.

While officials refused to comment on the identity of the hackers citing "operational security", experts told AFP that the complexity of the attack and its focus on high-profile targets like the prime minister pointed to the hand of a state-actor.

Yet Singapore's cyber challenge nonetheless continues to be a serious one for policymakers, as evidenced by a string of attacks that have targeted government agencies and government-linked institutions, including the defense ministry back in 2017.

Wealthy Singapore is hyper-connected and on a drive to digitize government records and essential services, including medical records which public hospitals and clinics can share via a centralized database. SingHealth lodged a police complaint on July 12, the release said. Affected persons will be contacted over the next five days.

SingHealth employees temporarily prohibited from using work computers.

Some hackers have in the past offered stolen data and software for sale online.

Despite that, Mr Lee said: "We can not go back to paper records and files".

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