Singapore

Political parties issued advisories on foreign interference

Ahead of next GE, they are advised to take precautions against cyber attacks

Political parties have been issued advisories on foreign interference and cyber security risks ahead of the next general election (GE), where outcomes can be influenced by threats in both areas.

The authorities yesterday urged parties to stay vigilant, saying: "Political parties play an important role in safeguarding the integrity of our general election. They should enhance their understanding of the threat of foreign interference and their cyber security posture."

The advice was given in a statement jointly issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Cyber Security Agency of Singapore and the Elections Department.

Such attempts have been reported elsewhere, including the United States presidential election in 2016 and mid-term elections in 2018, as well as elections in France and Germany in 2017, and in Italy in 2018.

"As Singapore is a highly digitally connected nation, we need to also guard against opportunistic attempts to disrupt our election processes, to cast doubts on the integrity of our general election, and attack the credibility of our Government," the agencies said.

They urged parties to find out more about precautions that can be taken to protect their IT infrastructure, and online and social media accounts, as well as the storage and management of their data.

SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY

Parties should also monitor their platforms for suspicious activity and not share posts or tweets of suspicious provenance.

Parties or candidates who detect or suspect foreign interference in elections, or find out that their accounts or systems have been misused or compromised, should make police reports. They should also inform the Elections Department.

Security expert Shashi Jayakumar said the advisory is timely given that the Covid-19 pandemic has seen the world "awash with fake news and disinformation".

While some of this is borne out of ignorance, there are also geopolitical aspects at play as countries seek to burnish their own record on fighting the disease and tarnish others', he said.

"We have to accept that from here on out, we are in an era where states can seek to undermine others through disinformation and subversion using social media and other means," added Dr Jayakumar, who heads the Centre for Excellence in National Security at NTU's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

The ruling People's Action Party said in response to queries from The Straits Times that it will study the advisory and adopt any additional precautions recommended.

Its branches have been advised to regularly assess their IT security policies and systems, and have been briefed on the precautionary measures against cyber threats.

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Singapore Politics