Campaign to ready public servants for Internet separation

With four months to go before the Government delinks public servants' work computers from the Internet, it is planning a marketing campaign to prepare the 143,000- strong force - some of whom, IT observers expect, may struggle with the unprecedented move.

The campaign also wants to raise their awareness of cyber threats such as phishing e-mail, used to trick people into revealing personal data.

"How can cyber security be an engaging and relatable topic, and not an annoying must-do to the average public servant?" the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) said in a tender, which closes today, to kick-start the campaign.

The agency said the campaign aims to achieve "a positive shift in the perception and behaviour of public servants in preparation for Internet surfing separation" amid larger goals of raising awareness of cyber threats in general.

The campaign would also be on top of existing cyber security education efforts by public agencies.

According to tender documents seen by The Straits Times, the campaign will include the production of roadshows, simulated phishing scams, video clips and posters targeted at all public servants - from administrators to finance and technical personnel.

A mascot will also be created, with its visual printed on stationery and other items, to educate public servants on IT security. The tender's value was not disclosed.

The campaign aims to drive home the message that the weakest link in cyber security efforts is the individual, and equip every public servant with a baseline knowledge of cyber security issues and challenges.

"This is essential as it is impossible and impractical for GovTech to oversee security and data protection of every single agency down to the individual public officer," said GovTech, which is overseeing the campaign and the rollout of the Internet separation measure.

The measure was first reported last June. When it takes full effect across the public sector in May, public servants will need to surf the Web on separately issued laptops, computers and tablets, or on their personal mobile phones.

Earlier this month, GovTech awarded 10 companies with a separate tender to supply an undisclosed number of Internet surfing and storage devices.

The aim is to create an "air gap" between the Web and government systems so malware will not find its way into critical IT systems and bring them down. This comes as Singapore has seen very determined cyber attacks on its IT systems in the past few years, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last June.

The measure also means that highly classified work e-mail and files will not end up in unsecured Internet devices.

It is in this context that GovTech recognises the need to "shape new user behaviour", including personal productivity management, according to the tender.

Mr Aloysius Cheang, executive vice-president of global computing security association Cloud Security Alliance, said this is a good opportunity to remind people, especially younger ones, of the bigger issue of IT security's importance. He added: "This separation could be hard for young people to swallow."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2017, with the headline 'Campaign to ready public servants for Internet separation'. Print Edition | Subscribe