Singapore civil servants to be banned from using the internet in work

8 Jun 2016

The city state of Singapore is taking drastic action over fears of data leaks by announcing it is to ban all civil servants from accessing the internet from work computers from May 2017.

Singapore as a nation is known for its no-nonsense attitude when it comes to state control, most famously with its complete ban on chewing gum for a number of years, but now it’s turning its attention to something even bigger: the internet.

According to the Singapore-based newspaper, The Straits Times, the Singapore government has issued a memo to all public servants working for the state that they will not be able to access the internet from work computers as of May 2017.

Future Human

The ruling was made by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), which said that, following a review, this somewhat drastic decision is aiming to plug potential data leaks from employees amid claims of heightened security threats.

The almost-total ban on internet use has actually already been trialled with some employees since April with web access on desktop computers denied, however, they can still access the internet using their own devices.

Return to 1990s ideals

Email will still be possible, but only within the state’s internal systems, however, it’s understood that work emails can still be sent to employees’ own private emails, which seems strange given the state’s demand for no leaks.

It’s estimated that there are more than 100,000 computers that would be affected by such a move and, based on chatter on social media, Singaporeans are wondering whether this decision comes following an unreported incident.

Speaking with The Straits Times, Aloysius Cheang, Asia-Pacific executive vice-president of Cloud Security Alliance based in the country, said this decision harks back to when the internet was severely restricted during the 1990s.

“In the past, it was hard for malware to extract sensitive information from within government networks,” Cheang said. “Now, it is hard to control any leak on social media or file-sharing sites.”

The Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore image via reezuan/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic