Police investigating bot misuse in SICC bookings

Singapore Island Country Club has four 18-hole courses located across its premises around MacRitchie Reservoir. It has about 18,000 members and membership fees are about $200,000. PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore Island Country Club (SICC), the country's oldest golf club, has discovered "suspicious activities" in its online booking system for golf games, with some members' accounts using bots or scripted programmes to secure tee times before booking opens.

These incidents could constitute a possible breach of the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act and the club has reported them to the authorities, SICC said in a note to its members on Thursday.

The police are investigating.

Yesterday, an SICC spokesman told The Straits Times that its golf booking system "has worked without incident all this while until the recent post circuit breaker period when, like all other clubs, we experienced a surge in demand from members wishing to play".

Since the club detected the bookings made by bots in July, it has been monitoring the transactions, the spokesman added.

At the same time, there were suspicious activities resulting from some members using software programs to pre-book flights to secure tee times.

But no personal data has been compromised, the club said.

In its note to members, SICC stated that members had said they were unable to secure golf flights which were snapped up "within minutes". Also, at the start of each online booking time, there were more than 2,000 booking attempts.

It further said that more than 50 per cent of online golf bookings were completed within seconds after the window opens, with the fastest being completed in two seconds.

SICC has four 18-hole courses - Island, New, Bukit and Sime - located across its premises around MacRitchie Reservoir. It has about 18,000 members and membership fees are about $200,000.

Its spokesman said the club has strengthened the golf booking system and that other than these new issues, it has been working fine and remains robust.

Meanwhile, as a precautionary measure, the club said those member accounts involved in using bots and scripted programs to secure tee times before booking opened have been suspended pending further investigation.

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    Attempts at the start of each online booking time for slots at the Singapore Island Country Club.

Its spokesman added: "We are indeed disappointed with these acts by a very small segment of the membership.

"We will not hesitate to take the appropriate actions against wrongdoers and send a clear signal that we will do what is necessary to protect the interest of the membership at large."

The club now restricts members to reserve a tee time using only one active booking session at any one time, instead of the previous multiple booking sessions.

To prevent the use of automated bots or scripted programs, SICC said it will also implement Captcha (Completely Automated Public Turing Test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) verifications, which include an extra step at the start of the active golf booking session.

The article has been edited for clarity.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2020, with the headline Police investigating bot misuse in SICC bookings. Subscribe