Singapore government introduces new cyber security legislation

All around the world, national governments are finding themselves locked in an ongoing battle to protect their citizens and infrastructure from the growing threat of cybercriminals and digital terrorism.

For that reason, many countries have been forced to introduce new legislation designed to ensure that people and organisations are able to protect themselves from cybercrime, and that those responsible for these acts can be brought to justice.

The latest such instance has seen the Singaporean government rename the national Computer Misuse Act to the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act, at the same time introducing a series of new laws aimed at ensuring ongoing vulnerability management.

In a speech delivered January 14, Singapore's minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and second minister for Home Affairs and Trade & Industry Mr S Iswaran noted that the country's increasing dependence on cyberspace has introduced new risks and vulnerabilities which must be addressed.

"In recent years, the number of cyber-attacks across the world has risen sharply. Criminals, terrorists and state-sponsored groups have been exploiting cyberspace to their advantage," said Mr Iswaran.

"The cyber threats that we face today are sophisticated and malicious. Our legislative framework must keep pace with the nature of this evolving cyber threat."

Under the new legislation introduced in Singapore, the state government will now have the power to order a person or an organisation to take the necessary measures to "prevent, detect or counter" any digital threat which might place national security, essential services, defence or foreign relations of the country at risk.

This will include providing relevant information relating to the security and operation of computers, programmes or services, as well as reporting any detected cybersecurity breaches to the relevant official party.

Anyone found in non-compliance with this order will be liable for a fine of upwards of SGD$50,000 (AUS$38,607), as well as potential imprisonment of up to ten years.

The story is an indication of just how real modern cyber security threats have become, and the radical steps government agencies are being required to take in order to protect themselves and the public.

Any Australian organisation which is concerned it may be at risk of being impacted by a cybersecurity threat should carefully weigh up the various options it has to protect itself from modern digital criminals.

Ethical hacking evaluations, for example, can be a good way to determine where any potential vulnerabilities may be arising in existing systems and processes, allowing organisations to act quickly to correct these flaws before they are exploited.

The bill passed through the Singaporean parliament despite some objections from other politicians regarding the broadness of the legislation, which Mr Iswaran responded to by noting that the changes come with "important safeguards" which are designed to ensure they are only used responsibly and in the interest of national security.

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