Singapore ‘leads world in cyber attacks’
Perpetrators usually based elsewhere but hijack systems here to launch attacks, says cyber security firm
Singapore has achieved another first, but being called the world's top launcher of cyber attacks is not something to crow about.
Cyber security firm Check Point's Threat Map shows that the Republic now ranks as the top "attacking country", ahead of China, Russia and the United States.
Check Point, an Israeli multinational company, handles threat intelligence, protection and management for organisations around the world.
Its Threat Map, launched in 2015, is used to consolidate cyber attack intelligence, which is then fed to the gateways of customers for instant protection.
Singapore has been in top position on the tracker since Monday, after being in the top five for at least two weeks prior.
The map tracks more than 10 million global cyber attacks every day.
Check Point spokesman Eying Wee, its head of marketing for Asia-Pacific and Japan, told The New Paper that the live map is generated based on data gathered from global sensors such as VirusTotal, an antivirus and online scan engine.
She added that Singapore often appears among the top attacking countries but declined to provide exact figures.
Ms Wee said that while the attacks are launched from computer systems in Singapore, the masterminds behind the attacks are unlikely to be based here.
"As a major business hub in Asia, a lot of traffic runs through Singapore," she said.
"With the volume of traffic, it is not unusual for Singapore to be higher in the threat index because it does look like the attacks are coming from Singapore even though they do not originate here."
The large amount of computing power in Singapore makes it a popular gateway for hackers to launch attacks all over the world, Ms Wee added.
Once the hackers are able to infect and infiltrate vulnerable systems, they can hijack them to launch attacks remotely from wherever they are in the world.
Government agencies, universities and companies in Singapore have been targets of cyber attacks in recent years.
Last year, a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on US internet firm Dyn disrupted services from telco StarHub.
DDoS attacks work by having thousands of infected systems accessing and overwhelming a targeted site, causing a huge spike in traffic.
Singapore recently topped the United Nations' ranking on cyber security strategy and is planning new laws to raise the nations's cyber security posture.
Mr Olli Jarva, application security managing consultant at technology group Synopsys, agreed that organisations need to better address cyber security.
"Whether Singapore is one of the highest attacking nations in the world is questionable. What we know is that typically, countries with advanced infrastructures and high penetration rate of devices open up a greater potential attack surface for malicious users," he said.
"It is a wake-up call for organisations to start addressing critical issues related to cyber security and start implementing better tools and services for software security and quality."
Replying to TNP's queries, a Cyber Security Agency of Singapore spokesman said: "According to the (Check Point) report, Singapore is likely to be used as a gateway for attacks that may be based elsewhere.
"As a commercial hub with high interconnectivity, Singapore is undoubtedly an attractive target for cyber criminals. Hence, it is important that we maintain high cyber security standards and take the necessary measures to protect our systems and data."
Ms Wee advised Singapore residents to be vigilant about cyber security and not assume that cyber attacks happen only to large organisations.
"Individuals do need to be mindful with e-mail attachments and links they open, apps they download and Wi-Fi hotspots they connect to," she said.