SingHealth cyber breach

Smart Nation projects paused pending review of cyber security

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at the cyber security press conference, on July 20, 2018.
Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at the cyber security press conference, on July 20, 2018.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Additional safeguards will be put in place if needed but projects will still be implemented progressively: Iswaran

Singapore has hit the "pause" button on all its Smart Nation projects that have yet to be rolled out following the largest data breach in the country's history.

The 2023 deadline by which citizens would be able to complete between 90 per cent and 95 per cent of transactions with the Government digitally may also be pushed back, pending the outcome of a thorough cyber-security review across agencies.

Hackers stole the personal particulars of 1.5 million SingHealth patients, of whom 160,000 people, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and a few ministers, also had their outpatient medication information stolen.

Calling the data breach the "most serious" in Singapore, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG) will "pause" the introduction of new infocomm technology systems.

This is to allow the SNDGG to review the cyber-security measures of government systems, and implement any additional safeguards if necessary.

However, while some deadlines may not be met depending on the outcome of the review, the business of the Government cannot come to a standstill, he said.

"What we want to do is to pause to take stock," he said, empha-sising that Smart Nation projects will still be implemented progressively. "There are no specific projects that are materially at risk of cessation."

  • NATIONAL ELECTRONIC HEALTH RECORD

  • 760,000

    Number of patient searches made each month.

  • 21,000 

    Number of doctors, nurses and pharmacists who have access to the system.

One of the key projects is a national digital identity (NDI) system. The NDI includes the soon-to-be-launched SingPass Mobile app, which would enable access to government services without the need for physical tokens or SMS passwords.

Mr Iswaran, who is also Minister-in-charge of Cyber Security, will convene a Committee of Inquiry to get to the bottom of what went wrong.

"We must not let this derail our Smart Nation services... it is the way of the future," he said.

PM Lee also said on his Facebook page that Singapore cannot go back to paper records and files. "We have to go forward, to build a secure and smart nation."

The ongoing National Electronic Health Record (NEHR) project - which enables the sharing of patients' treatment and medical data among hospitals here - is also being reviewed.

Specifically, mandatory contributions to the NEHR have been put on hold until further notice pending a cyber-security review of the system, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said yesterday.

The system became available to all healthcare institutions in 2013.

Today, more than 760,000 patient searches are made each month by the 21,000 doctors, nurses and pharmacists who have linked up with and have access to the NEHR system. They will continue to have access to the NEHR.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2018, with the headline 'Smart Nation projects paused pending review of cyber security'. Print Edition | Subscribe