So, in the end, it was an internal problem that caused the alarming shutdown of 19 Singapore government websites on Saturday.
A combination of routing and hardware issues during a maintenance effort was the reason, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) said yesterday. It disputed claims that a hacker had broken in after threats of such a cyber attack last week.
The revelations came after an IDA incident report was seemingly leaked early yesterday. It detailed how the government websites were taken down inadvertently during an “urgent scheduled maintenance” to test out a new security solution.
While the Today newspaper believed the report to be genuine, it doesn’t seem like the IDA was asked by reporters to verify it during a press conference yesterday (Techgoondu was not present).
There’s also the question of whether IDA had called reporters in for a briefing only after the document was leaked to the public, via a report on the Tech In Asia site.
That’s an important point because it may show how reactive – rather than pro-active – that government agencies are with sharing information that is important to the public. Unfortunately, that question doesn’t seem to have been put to the IDA yesterday.
This is not meant to make things difficult. Rather, it’s critical that the agency in charge of cyber security be upfront in difficult situations (see our previous commentary).
Until it came out to clarify things yesterday, many people were still believing that the government was trying to cover up an embarrassing breach of the country’s infocomm infrastructure.
Tellingly, the IDA also told people yesterday to expect intermittent access to some websites, as maintenance work is carried out in the next few days. It should really have done so earlier to silence the rumours.
CLARIFICATION: The IDA has clarified that it had planned the press briefing yesterday before news of the incident report broke.