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Singapore a prime target for cybercriminals, but we’ve got to stay secure

Zafirah Salim | Oct. 3, 2014
Kenneth Chen, Managing Director, ASEAN, Blue Coat shares some security tips for consumers on how to ensure data security and privacy online, and for companies to conduct their businesses safely in the virtual world.

Kenneth Chen, Managing Director, ASEAN, Blue Coat

Cases of cheating involving e-commerce spiked 425 percent in the first half of this year, which contributed to the overall crime rate in Singapore climbing 1.4 percent, said the Singapore Police Force (SPF) in its Mid-Year Crime Brief report released on August 13, 2014.

Two types of scams, in particular, saw significant increases - the Multiple Payment Online Purchase Scam, and the PayPal Email Scam.

Cyber extortion was also highlighted, with a 247 per cent increase this year. Classified under "violent or serious property crimes" category, cyber extortion contributed significantly to the category's rise of 39.3 percent - the highest among all categories. In fact, SPF said cyber extortion forms the majority of the increase in attempted extortion and extortion cases, and that the total amount cheated increased from at least S$22,000 in 2013 to at least S$57,000 in 2014.

Meanwhile, Internet love scams are up by 273 per cent - an increase of 60 cases from the 22 reported over the same period last year. Most cases involve suspects from Britain targeting women in search of love online.

"Due to Singapore's position as an affluent financial and commercial hub, it has increasingly become a target for advanced persistent threats (APTs), which are highly targeted, specialised attacks that penetrate the usual defenses such as firewalls," said Kenneth Chen, Managing Director, ASEAN, Blue Coat.

"While Singapore is a prime target for instances of cybercrime, it is also one of the most developed countries in the Asia Pacific region, with both the public and private sectors increasingly devoting their attention and resources to cybersecurity," he added.

Factors contributing to the rise of online crime

"Social media is growing in popularity worldwide, and Singapore, with its high smartphone penetration rate of 87 percent, is no exception," said Chen. "Together with Singapore's growing affluence, this hyperconnectivity makes Singapore a prime target for cybercriminals."

Chen added that the increasing adoption of Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) and cloud services has also left companies without a closed, controlled information ecosystem, therefore increasing the points of attacks for the perpetrators.

Besides the online crimes highlighted by the SPF such as e-commerce scams, cyber extortion and Internet love scams, Chen noted a rise in hacktivism as one of the trending online crimes.

"In 2013 alone, Singapore experienced three high-profile cases of hacktivism, where perpetrators hacked into and defaced public websites," said Chen.

"While many online crimes are financially motivated, some, like hacktivism, stem from perpetrators' need to express dissent. However, hacktivism also represents a dangerous threat that has already caused extensive damage to the IT community with cyber-attacks. For Singapore, the threat of hacktivism is only growing, as the Singapore government ramps up efforts to link public facilities and infrastructure to the internet," he added.


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