Singapore armed forces lose servicemen's personal data

News by Jaya Prakash

On Tuesday Singapore's armed forces were hit by revelations that the personal data belonging to some 850 servicemen was stolen.

The breach of the nation's cyber security networks so unnerved the authorities that, the country's defence ministry said that the real purpose of the breach was to ‘gain access to official secrets'. And official secrets could mean anything from the technical and specialised data on the weapons systems used by Singapore's  armed forces to where a serviceman lives. 

"The attacks were targeted and well-planned. Based on our investigations, they are not the work of casual hackers or criminal gangs," said MINDEF's deputy secretary for technology, David Koh.

Since Britain's sudden announcement in the mid-1960s to withdraw all of its armed forces east of Suez, Singapore has maintained one of the few conscript armies in the world. Its armed forces comprising its reserve force number close to a million men under arms, make it a sizeable force.

According to the defence ministry it was the personal data of the 850 servicemen in question that was stolen. Their ranks and position in the chain of command were never revealed nor of the specialised sections in which they worked.

What was stolen was data regarding their names, their date of birth and their national registration identity card (NRIC) numbers. The NRIC, which was imposed in Singapore during British colonial rule, contains details of a person's fingerprint impressions and other vital statistics such as blood grouping and residential address. Stolen NRIC numbers can potentially be used to discover the reserve status of an individual thus explaining why the armed forces is concerned.

A defence ministry official when speaking on condition of anonymity refused to tell SC Media UK what its next course of action maybe saying, ‘we cannot do so for operational reasons'.

Since the upsurge in global terrorism and the escape of the country's most wanted terrorist, Mas Selamat Kestari from a heavily fortified detention centre in 2008, the tiny city-state been anxious about its security. Just this week, it announced plans to place closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) along its coastline to prevent a 2008 Mumbai-style seaborne attack from terror groups. 

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