A memo is being sent to all government agencies, outlining the new policy, which has been introduced to increase security, according to a statement from the Infocomm Development Authority.
“The Singapore Government regularly reviews our IT measures to make our network more secure,” the statement said.
“We have started to separate internet access from the work stations of a selected group of public service officers, and will do so for the rest of the public service officers progressively over a one-year period.”
The Straits Times reports that workers will be able to access the internet on their private devices
Productivity vs. security
Cyber-security expert, Michael Gazeley, Managing Director of Network Box, says there’s no way to make computers completely safe, especially if the USB port still functions.
“One can obviously improve cyber-security significantly by not allowing computers to connect to the internet. However, further protection can be achieved by having special computers, which have no USB connectivity, in order to remove another common threat vector.”
“Such computers might also be shielded internally, so you can’t pick up what’s being typed on the keyboard, etc.” he said.
However he said, while cutting off internet access makes sense for workers dealing with sensitive information, for others it might be a costly inconvenience.
“It’s typically a balance between convenience and security. If everyone is disconnected, how do they even work together? If they do work, how are they then going to move that work across to anyone else? Are they going to print it out? Is the printer secure? Is the paper secure?” Gazeley said.
He added that if workers had access to an intranet, then other measures would have to be taken to ensure they couldn’t access the internet from the same devices while out of the office.
The move was criticized online as being a retrograde step and one that could lead to wider restrictions on internet freedom in the city-state.