September 30, 2019
The Singapore government outlined a recent data breach earlier today which stated that personal SingHealth profiles and prescriptions were stolen by hackers via attacks on the Ministry of Health. The prime minister of the country believes that the cyber attack was not the work of casual hackers or any criminal gangs, but a state-funded attack.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong revealed in a Facebook post, “I don’t know what the attackers were hoping to find. Perhaps they were hunting for some dark state secret or at least something to embarrass me. If so, they would have been disappointed. My medication data is not something I would ordinarily tell people about, but there is nothing alarming in it.”
The government believes that the cyber attack was well planned by professionals and it is likely that the motive was to find state secrets. With over 1.5 million citizens being affected by the breach, the government has asked its citizens not to panic over the incident. No personal data has been amended or deleted in any way, and test results and diagnoses from medical facilities have not been stolen. The data stolen in the cyber attack includes personal identity information like names, addresses, dates of birth and national registry numbers. All patients are being contacted by the government to be informed about the breach, and the process will complete within five days. In the meantime, SingHealth users can check if their data has been compromised using a dedicated Web page.
Data breaches are becoming extremely common, and hackers are constantly trying to steal personal data, which can be used for scams and extortion. Digital health records are convenient for governments and healthcare institutions, but they contain highly sensitive information which can be misused. As the data is passed on to health institutions across a country, it becomes difficult to prevent a cyber attack of a large scale.
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