Published: Sun, July 22, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

SingHealth warns of fake texts following news of recent cyberattack

SingHealth warns of fake texts following news of recent cyberattack

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran both described the leak as the most serious, unprecedented breach of personal data in Singapore.

In what is Singapore's worst cyber attack so far, hackers infiltrated the computers of SingHealth and stole the personal particulars of 1.5 million patients.

The data taken include name, NRIC number, address, gender, race and date of birth.

The records of the medicines given to 160,000 people - the Prime Minister among them - who had received outpatient treatment at SingHealth's outlets were also stolen.

Through the major operation, confidential data of 1.5 million patients were illegally breached and copied, reports said, adding that of these numbers, over 150,000 saw their dispensed medical records stolen as well. Other public healthcare institutions were expected to do the same.

The hackers "specifically and repeatedly targeted" data belonging to Singapore's prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, whom the BBC notes has survived two battles with cancer.

While the city-state has some of the most advanced military weaponry in the region, the government says it fends off thousands of cyberattacks every day and has long warned of breaches by actors as varied as high-school students in their basements to nation states.

Hackers targeted SingHealth, the largest health care institution in Singapore.

In a Friday blog post, Loong writes: "When SingHealth digitized its medical records, they asked me whether to computerize my own personal records too, or to keep mine in hardcopy for security reasons".

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He said on Facebook that if the hackers were looking for a dark state secret or something to embarrass him, "they would have been disappointed".

No further malicious activity has been detected since July 4, and all patient records in SingHealth's IT system remain in place, said the release.

SingHealth will begin contacting the affected patients from Friday via SMSes.

The Prime Minister said the security and confidentiality of patient information is a top priority.

"SNDGG will pause the introduction of new ICT systems while it reviews the cybersecurity measures of Government systems, and implements any additional security safeguards which are necessary".

On July 10, the Health Ministry (MOH), SingHealth and the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore were informed after forensic investigations confirmed that it was a cyber attack.

What data was stolen? Going digital would enable my doctors to treat me more effectively and in a timely manner.

Protective measures included resetting all user and systems accounts, placing additional controls on workstations and servers, setting up additional system monitoring controls, and temporarily imposing Internet surfing separation.

Of course, I also knew that the database would be attacked, and there was a risk that one day despite our best efforts it might be compromised. "Unfortunately, that has now happened", he said. Following investigations, it was established that data was extracted from Jun 27 to Jul 4.

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