Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has weigh in his thoughts on the segregating of internet access saga.
As “volunteer number one”, he has been working on two separate computer systems since the start of the year, revealed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, as he addressed the outcry over the Government’s move to separate internet access from work computers, noting that the Government must make sure its systems are secure as cyber threats become more severe.
The move was something the Government had been “thinking about for a while” and had “put off for as long as possible”, said Mr Lee, who was speaking to Singapore media in an interview wrapping up his official visit to Myanmar on Thursday (June 9).
Mr Lee said he had volunteered to be the first to try out this new way of working to keep out cyber intrusions as far as possible, with the Internet being a “wild wild west”. He was initially reluctant to do it, but his security team convinced him that it was a “serious” matter, he said.
On Wednesday, news broke that public service officers would not be able to access the internet from their work computers from next May. But they would still be able to surf the Internet on separate computers or mobile devices, either belonging to the individual or provided by their organisations.
Asked about the move, which has drawn criticism, Mr Lee said the culture is now one of being “completely dependent” on our IT systems and computers in the office. “We have to make sure that our system is secure. We can’t get infiltrated, data cannot be stolen, somebody can’t come in and wipe out your data or cause some other mischief,” said Mr Lee.
Despite the best precautions, intruders get in “because the intruders are very often one step smarter than you and you have to block everywhere…they just have to get in in one place and you may not know for a long time,” he said. Noting that threats have become “a lot more severe” in intensity and cleverness, this was something the Government must “take it very, very seriously”, he added.
Some ministries, such as the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and some parts of Ministry of Home Affairs, have already been working based on two computers. “I think it’s a recognition that the internet is a wild wild west and we better know that. Otherwise, if you go out innocently thinking that all is fine, someday, something is going to happen to you. Quite likely something is happening to you and you don’t even know it,” Mr Lee warned.
He also stressed the need to find “the right balance”. “If we make our system so secure that it becomes a bother to you, then civil servants will either stop working or find some way around it,” he acknowledged, noting initially it was a nuisance. “So we’ve got to find the right balance and we’ve got to calibrate that balance as we go along.”
Calling the move “workable”, Mr Lee said: “It takes some getting used to, but you can do it. So what I have done, I have an email system, I set up another one, which is for internet browsing, and between the two you have what people call an air gap separation, meaning, this is one system, that’s one system. They don’t talk to each other. And hopefully no information can jump over from one side to another or from this side to that.”