Singapore Wants Government Employees off the Internet

June 9, 20168:07 am605 views

Singapore bans government employees from accessing Internet at work to make their official information systems more secure.

The government’s Infocomm Development Authority said it has begun disconnecting internet access from the work stations of some government employees, and will expand the removal to all public workers by June 2017.

Straits Times reported, those who need Internet access at work will be issued separate laptops with web access. However, if they do not use the web, they can use Internet on mobile phones and personal tablets without access to government networks. This move was greeted with furore on social media.

Many opine this as a hindrance to efficiency, wherein citizens have emphasised on the need for a better work-life balance. This new policy set to be fully implemented in May 2017, is aimed at tightening information security and preventing leaks. It could affect an estimated 143,000 public officers in Singapore, working in over 16 government ministries and over 50 statutory boards, CNBC reports.

“We have started to separate internet access from the work stations of a selected group of public service officers, and will do so for the rest of the public service officers progressively over a one-year period,” a spokesman from the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) told CNBC.

However, public servants will still be allowed to forward work emails to their private email accounts, can surf the Internet on their personal mobile devices and it is secure as long as they do not have access to government networks. This initiative contrasts with the country’s multi-pronged approach to be the Tech Hub and Smart Nation.

See: Singapore: MOM and ILO Renew Partnership to Promote Decent Work in Southeast Asia

Aloysius Cheang, Asia-Pacific executive vice-president of global computing security association Cloud Security Alliance, said the Government’s move marks a return to the past – the 1990s – when Internet access was available only on dedicated terminals. “In the past, it was hard for malware to extract sensitive information from within government networks. Now, it is hard to control any leak on social media or file-sharing sites.”

ZDNet understands that government employees will continue to have access to the government’s intranet and, as such, to its e-mail system and will be able to send and receive e-mail with external parties. Online queries from the general public will continue to be redirected to the work e-mail of public servants who can continue to respond using their work e-mail address.

This one-year transition will allow for mechanisms and tools to be built for minimising interruptions to workflows and better enable government employees to access cloud service and wireless networks after careful evaluation and meet their work requirements.

RSA’s Asia-Pacific Japan security evangelist Michael Lee said: “In approaching cyber security, we believe the ideal approach to be accounting for people, processes, and technology. Just as identification is necessary for entry to certain facilities, ensure that the proper identity and access management controls are setup so that the rightful have access to corporate resources when the data needs to extend beyond the organisation’s network.”

This definitely raises questions if cutting off the chord and plugging off Internet to public servants systems is the only answer to resolve cyber security concerns, reduce threats to government organisations and will this move ensure to curb data leaks? Thoughts to prod on!

Also read: Majority of Singaporeans Continue to Work Overtime, Despite MOM’s Recommended Limit

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