Facebook, Twitter and media firms are joining hands to stop the spread of inaccurate online news. Pic: AP

Singapore: Public servants will be barred from using internet at work next year

MORE than 100,000 public servants in Singapore will be blocked from using the internet at work next year, as the government moves to tighten up IT security measures.

All government agencies, ministries and statutory boards are to receive a memo informing them about the restrictions, reports the Straits Times.

Once the changes are implemented, public servants will only be able to surf the internet using personal phones or tablets that do not have access to the Singaporean government’s email systems.

Anyone who needs the internet for work will be given dedicated internet terminals. The move is aimed at plugging any potential leaks that may arise from shared emails or shared documents when employees use their work emails.

According to the newspaper, it is rare for even banks, telcos and casinos to bar all work terminals from access to the internet, even though they have the most stringent computer policies.

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It appears that the government is wary of employees possibly downloading malware on work computers or sharing sensitive documents online.

Asia-Pacific executive vice president of Cloud Security Alliance, Aloysius Cheang, told the Straits Times that the government’s actions will shift the public service back into the 1990s, and added that back then, it was difficult for malware to “extract sensitive information from within government networks”.

“Now, it is hard to control any leak on social media or file-sharing sites,” said Cheang.

The Singaporean public is not pleased with the news, with many taking to Facebook to complain about being pushed back into the “Stone Age”.

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One netizen, Susan Tan, noted that teachers will also be affected by the blockade, which will greatly hamper their workflow. She said: “Some of my friends are secondary schoolteachers who need Google to prepare course materials and verify information… They work 12 hours a day and if they need to transfer the data physically from [a PC with internet access] to their work PC, their work load will increase tremendously.”

Another user criticized the government’s lack of confidence in their own firewall, comparing it to North Korea and Burma (Myanmar). Wilkie Ong wrote: “It is because we are not smart enough to create our own robust internet security solution and what is available commercially cannot make it, the easy way out of to cut off internet access.

“Well done, the public service is no different from North Korea or [Burma]. No confidence in their firewall might as well stop all internet traffic.”