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Singapore’s PDPC Coping with a Rise in Data Breaches

Fingerprint and data protection on digital screen, 3d render

The number of data breach alerts that the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) of Singapore received, tripled in the February-March period compared with the previous two months.

This comes amid a string of potential personal data leaks reported in recent months. Legal and information technology security experts said the increase could have been due to a new data breach notification requirement companies must follow as well as rising cyber-security threats.

As per reports, the PDPC stated that the February-March breach alerts it received involved organisations such as those from the finance, retail and manufacturing sectors. The personal data compromised in those cases included names, e-mail addresses, personal identity numbers, financial details, phone numbers and postal addresses. Experts said the data could be used for attempts to, for instance, take over victims’ online accounts to spread malware or transfer money to hackers.

PDPC added that data breaches are often caused by human error as well as malicious activities such as phishing or cyber-attacks.

Meanwhile, a United States-based cyber risk analytics firm said while it does not have comprehensive data for Singapore, it still recorded at least three data breaches in the first quarter. This is already a third of the at least nine cases it logged for Singapore for the whole of last year.

The biggest case recorded in Singapore for January to March this year was that for a furniture retailer. In that data breach, a hacker group claimed to have stolen the data of more than 300,000 customers.

Other cases reported in the last three months include those that affected third-party vendors of Singtel, Singapore Airlines and the National Trades Union Congress’ Employment and Employability Institute, as well as a breach that hit a local security firm.

The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) said that, for now, the local security firm and Singtel incidents, as well as one affecting e-mail servers have not affected Singapore’s critical information infrastructure, like those in the transport and telecoms sectors.

Also, for Singapore, the ransomware detection number increased by 45% in the second half of last year compared with the first half.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, cybersecurity has risen to the top of both national and international agendas. Government leaders from all over the world said that without cybersecurity there is no real national security. The boom of the digital economy and the digitalisation of businesses and society especially during the COVID-19 pandemic has now put the private sector at the centre of cybersecurity debates. Recent data mismanagements, or the revelations that social media sites compromised the data of millions of their users, highlight the central role that the private sector plays in cybersecurity. Undeniably, corporations are key players in the digital realm whether it is as distributors of malicious software, victims of cyber-attacks, or first responders to security breaches.

A partnership between both public and private sectors can help in trying to boost cyber resiliency policies and programmes. A lot of the technologies coming out are from industries, academes, and civil societies.

Therefore, Mr David Koh from the CSA believes that a multi-stakeholder engagement is an ideal method to improve cyber resilience on a bigger scale. Mr Koh noted that at an intellectual level, everyone understands cyber so everyone must also be committed to trying to find viable solutions.

He also emphasised that cybersecurity is the key factor in achieving an open and secured internet environment that can help boost domestic and international economies. Mr Koh and the CSA view cyber capacity building as a collective effort.

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