Cyber threats down, but online crime rising
Cyber Security Agency also warns that threats could become more sophisticated
While the number of cyber threats detected here fell last year, the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) expects these threats to become more targeted and deceptive.
In its annual Singapore Cyber Landscape report, published today, CSA said it saw fewer instances of website defacement, phishing, ransomware, and command and control servers used to communicate with botnets, or networks of compromised devices.
But cyber crime continues to rise, making up almost one-fifth of the overall crime here.
While there were spikes in phishing activity during major events like the Trump-Kim Summit last year, CSA said it found 30 per cent fewer phishing URLs with a Singapore link in 2018 (16,100) than in 2017 (23,420).
Six hundred and five websites, including two government websites, were defaced last year, down from 2,040 in 2017, while ransomware cases dipped from 25 to 21.
CSA said the actual number of ransomware cases may be higher as many go unreported.
As the drop in cyber threats detected only occurred over a single year, CSA said it is premature to attribute it to any singular development, or expect it to continue.
But the agency said possible explanations include shifting tactics of attackers, who may be seeking greater rewards by conducting targeted attacks, as well as greater awareness among organisations and the public.
Singapore remains a target of advanced persistent threats (APTs) - skilled and sophisticated attackers usually state-linked - and CSA said it foresees more frequent data breaches over the next few years.
Last June, Singapore was hit with its worst-ever data breach when the personal particulars of about 1.5 million SingHealth patients were stolen by a cyber attacker that bore the characteristics of an APT group.
CSA also highlighted increased threats in the near future to global supply chains and cloud infrastructure. Smart buildings and factories also face greater risks, given the proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and connected industrial control systems, CSA said.
Many IoT device users do not change the default login credentials, and such devices have emerged as a potential attack vector, with Singapore constantly appearing in the top five destinations for IoT attacks.
CSA said attackers may also leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to create smarter malware, and are likely to target and manipulate biometric data.
It also warned of a shift from traditional ransomware to malware that can mine cryptocurrencies without authorisation.
While AI-driven malware is a hot topic, FireEye's senior threat intelligence analyst Lim Yihao told The New Paper attackers use the simplest methods that get the job done, and old fashioned spear phishing mostly does the trick.
But he said supply chain compromises are a disturbing emerging trend that even multinational firms with large security teams struggle to deal with.
"They can strike an entire economy and they're difficult to defend against," he added.
Another worrying trend is the increase in cyber crime cases reported to the police - from 5,351 in 2017 to 6,179 last year.
E-commerce scams rose to 2,125 cases, while cases investigated under the Computer Misuse Act saw a 40 per cent jump to 1,204 cases.
As more small and medium enterprises go digital, CSA said it expects business e-mail impersonation scams to grow.
There were 378 cases last year, up from 332 in 2017, and businesses lost close to $58 million, a 31 per cent rise.