During a visit to San Francisco, Singapore foreign affairs minister Vivian Balakrishnan commented that the country cannot “go back to pen and paper. … If people lose confidence in the integrity and security of the system, then all these aspirations cannot be fulfilled.”
The comments follow information coming into the open regarding data breaches, one of which affected 14,200 individuals diagnosed with HIV up to January 2013. In a statement by the police, it was confirmed that the information was “in the possession of an unauthorized person” and had been illegally disclosed online.
The statement went on to say that the information was in the possession of Mikhy K. Farrera Brochez, a male US citizen residing in Singapore between January 2008 and June 2016. He was convicted of fraud and drug-related offences in March 2017, sentenced to 28 months in prison and deported from Singapore. The fraud offences were in relation to Brochez lying about his HIV status to the Ministry of Manpower in order to obtain and maintain his employment pass.
According to Bloomberg, Balakrishnan said the government’s response to recent cybersecurity attacks and human leaks has to be one where “it’s completely open.” It follows the first meeting of the Public Sector Data Security Review Committee, which was held on April 18, 2019, according to a government statement.
Bloomberg reported that attendees of the meeting “reviewed past data incidents” and broad approaches to raise the bar of security. The committee will submit its final report to the prime minister by the end of November 2019.
Singapore has been trying to position itself as a “Smart Nation,” with initiatives focusing on digital identity, smart urban mobility and e-payments. However, the data breaches have made many people nervous, especially with the ambitions of artificial intelligence (AI) clear.
“The ability to deploy AI in our respective fields should be commoditized,” Balarkrishman said. “We will be one of the earliest adopters of these new technologies.”