Singapore's move to delink government computers from the Web sparks interest from other nations

SINGAPORE - Probably the first country to do so, Singapore's decision to delink its government computers from the Internet could spur other nations to take a similar step.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said on Saturday (June 11) that since The Straits Times reported last week that 100,000 government computers will no longer have direct access to the Web from next May, other countries have expressed interest.

"You'll be very surprised at the kind of responses I received from my counterparts. They want to know how we do it," he said. "In fact, I was seated at a dinner and one of the ambassadors said, 'We were surprised that you decided to do it and we want to learn from you because we think this should be done'."

Dr Yaacob added, in response to a question from The Straits Times: "To the best of my knowledge, given the extensiveness with which we are doing this, I think we are the first."

He was speaking on the sidelines of a dialogue he had with members of the Malay/Muslim community on SkillsFuture at Tanjong Katong Complex.

The move, reported on June 8, is meant to keep government e-mail systems and shared documents safe. Civil servants will still have access to the Internet, but on separate computers dedicated to that purpose or on their personal mobile devices. But teachers will be exempt, as schools deal with less sensitive information and also use the Internet for teaching and learning.

Stressing that the Government had thought long and hard about this option, Dr Yaacob said that such a step, while inconvenient, was the best way to reduce the risk of government data being compromised, especially given the number and increasing sophistication of cyber attacks.

"At the end of the day, as the custodian of data concerning our citizens and because of national interests, we have to make sure that we can protect that, right?" said Dr Yaacob. "We are constantly under attack...and the hackers are becoming more sophisticated."