YANGON: The move by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore to block Internet access on the work computers of public officers is workable, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday (Jun 9).
He added that while it is no doubt “a nuisance”, “it’s inconvenient but it’s doable”.
Mr Lee said that he himself has tested the system from the beginning of the year - he currently uses two separate systems, one for official emails only and one for surfing the Internet.
The Prime Minister was speaking to reporters as he wrapped up his official visit to Myanmar. He said the Government had been thinking of the move for a while, and had put off the move for as long as possible.
However, the country has seen very sophisticated attacks on the Government's Internet system, and the threats have become even more severe, said Mr Lee, which is why the Government is making the move.
Mr Lee pointed out that despite the best precautions, critical data can be stolen. And because of the reliance on the Internet today, people can infiltrate Government systems to create havoc by wiping out or stealing official information.
The Prime Minister emphasised that the Singapore Government's computer system has experienced attacks, prompting them to take this issue very seriously.
He noted that so far, the “damage which has been done or the information which has been stolen has not been disastrous", adding that "we cannot be sure that that will not happen".
"In fact, we can be pretty sure that we have a big system, somewhere in there, something is not quite right, and somewhere in that part, somebody has discovered it and may well be taking advantage of it," Mr Lee said.
"So what do we do? If we make our system so secure, that it becomes a bother to use, the civil servants will either stop working or will find some way around it. If you leave your doors completely open, it’s very convenient, then you think everything is fine until one day something goes bump in the night, and then you have disaster," he added.
"So we got to find the right balance and we’ve got to calibrate that balance as we go along.”
While the scheme might have raised the ire of some civil servants, Mr Lee said that security and the safety of the system still comes first.
Said Mr Lee: "We’ve reached this point, we’ve decided to do it. Are we happy? I don’t think so because it will slow us down in terms of day to day productivity. But in terms of security, safety of our system, safety of our citizens and information concerning them, it’s absolutely necessary."
"Otherwise, one day you find all your NRIC numbers and addresses and income tax returns for sale on the Internet - one package 10 gigs, how will the Government explain?”
Mr Lee added that the scheme was nothing to do with "being liberal or not liberal".
"This is just being safe and secure and doing what’s necessary to be done," he said.