PM among 1.5mn affected in 'state-sponsored' hack

Hackers have stolen the health records of 1.5 million Singaporeans including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, authorities said on Friday, with the leader specifically targeted in the city state's biggest ever data breach.

The data consists of people who visited clinics and hospitals across the country between 1 May 2015 and 4 July of this year.

However, while the attack was detected on July 4, it was later established that data "was exfiltrated" from June 27. The attackers stole database that included patient names, gender, date of birth, and their addresses.

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

"Please be assured that NO phone number, financial information or other patient medical records have been illegally accessed", it added.

Mr David Koh, chief executive of the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, said that "this was a deliberate, targeted and well-planned cyber attack".

Notaby, the patient records stolen from SingHealth were not tampered with (ie, amended or deleted), and no other patient records - such as diagnoses, test results or doctors' notes - were breached, said MOH and Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI). "It was not the work of casual hackers or criminal gangs", MCI said in a separate statement.

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As a result of the hack, IHiS has been instructed to do a thorough review of the public healthcare system in an attempt to prevent future hacks from taking place.

In an announcement on Facebook, PM Lee suggested that whatever the hackers' goals were, they could be looking for "some dark state secret, or at least something to embarrass [him]".

CSA said hackers had gained control through breaching a frontend workstation, from which they then were able to obtain privileged account credentials to gain access to SingHealth's database. Security measures, including the blocking of dubious connections and changing of passwords, were taken to thwart the hackers. SingHealth lodged a police report on July 12. "It is good that action was taken immediately after the threat was detected to minimise the risk of further data exfiltration".

All patient records in SingHealth's IT system remain intact and there has been no disruption of healthcare services.

Patients can also access the Health Buddy mobile app and SingHealth website to check if they are affected by the breach.

Singapore primarily boasts its stability and security, but the latest hack is an example that even the best systems can fall prey to cyber-attacks. Areas of review will include cybersecurity policies, threat management processes, IT system controls and organisational and staff capabilities. Digitizing health records has been on a rise, but the hack poses a major concern on whether it is a good idea to do so.

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