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Singapore secret police computer scan scare


South China Morning Post May 1, 1999
DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR in Singapore

THE computers of nearly half the Internet subscribers in Singapore are reportedly being scanned without their knowledge to determine if the systems are vulnerable to hacker attacks.

The screening of more than 200,000 SingNet and SingTel Magix customers was disclosed after a law student complained to police that someone with an account in the Home Affairs Ministry had hacked into her computer.

Paul Chong, SingTel chief executive officer for multimedia, told the Straits Times the Internet Service Provider asked the ministry's information technology security unit* to conduct the scan after the March 6 arrest of two youths who had hacked into 17 SingNet accounts.

[*This Ministry is also reponsible for Singapore's secret police (members of the Internal Security Department) who "take care" of those detained without trail under the Internal Security Act.]

"We are merely protecting the interest of our customers," Mr Chong said.

He said customers were not informed of the scan so as not to alarm them. Also, "real hackers might lie low" if the scan was public knowledge.

Anne Lee, 21, the student who filed the police complaint, said an anti-intrusion programme available on the Internet uncovered the scan.

Mr Chong said the scanning so far had shown some users were vulnerable, and they would be informed.

Published in the South China Morning Post. May 1, 1999.

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