Parliament: Singapore telcos' networks as resilient as those overseas, says Yaacob Ibrahim

Singapore's telco's networks are as resilient as their counterparts in other countries, said Dr Yaacob Ibrahim in Parliament on Jan 9, 2017.
Singapore's telco's networks are as resilient as their counterparts in other countries, said Dr Yaacob Ibrahim in Parliament on Jan 9, 2017.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

SINGAPORE - Singapore telcos' networks are as resilient as those of their international counterparts, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim told Parliament on Monday (Jan 9).

Over the past year, the availability of Singtel and StarHub's fixed broadband networks has exceeded the 99.9 per cent required by regulator the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), he said.

Dr Yaacob was responding to Mr Ong Teng Koon (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC), who asked what caused Singtel's islandwide fibre broadband outage last month, and what could be done to prevent such disruptions.

Singtel had suffered an islandwide outage early last month, due to a technical failure at its server - which dynamically assigns Internet protocol addresses to end-users' modems to provide them with Web connection. The outage left residential customers and some businesses unable to access the Internet for nearly 24 hours.

"We cannot completely eliminate service outages, especially with the increasing complexity of technologies and networks," noted Dr Yaacob.

Instead, operators are expected to plan and design resilient networks, and put in place measures to ensure speedy recovery in the event of a disruption, he said.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) also asked if there are plans to spur local operators to make their networks more resilient.

To this, Dr Yaacob said IMDA takes a "serious view" of all service outages and will regularly review the Telecom Service Resiliency Code, which spells out the minimum requirement for service uptime and was last revised three months ago.

Breaching these requirements - such as a loss of 70 per cent or more of a telco's Internet bandwidth - may result in a fine ranging from $15,000 to $270,000 for every 30 minutes of outage.

While a cyber attack has been ruled out as the cause of Singtel's outage, investigations are still ongoing for two separate disruptions on StarHub's broadband network in October 2016.

Both incidents, which lasted about two hours each, were said to be caused by cyber attacks - a first for telcos in Singapore.

The two waves of attacks were said to have come from its customers' malware-infected Web devices such as speakers, routers and webcams.

The hacker-hijacked machines were then directed to overwhelm StarHub's systems in what is known as a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. The users would have had no clue this was happening in the background.

The two attacks on StarHub came on the heels of a similar DDoS attack in the United States that resulted in a massive Internet outage on the east coast of the US. A piece of malware called Mirai reportedly infected traffic cameras, which were used to take down service provider Dyn's DNS, or domain name system.