Singapore prime minister, 1.5M healthcare patients affected by serious data breach

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Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is among the 1.5 million patients of SingHealth, whose non-medical data were compromised in a cyber attack that was detected on July 4. The attack is said to be persistently targeting the medical records of the prime minister.

However, hackers were able to harvest outpatient medical data of 160,000 people at the attacks which “was exfiltrated” from June 27. SingHealth is the country’s largest group of healthcare institutions. The hackers managed to steal patients’ basic information that includes name, address, date of birth, gender, national identification number, and race, who visited member clinics and hospitals of SingHealth between May 1, 2015, and July 4, 2018.

“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,” Loong wrote on a Facebook post.

He added that the government was a constant target of cyber attacks and any loopholes must be addressed.

In a report by ZDNet, the records of the patients whose medical data was leaked were “not modified or deleted” citing the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) joint statement.

Public healthcare sector’s technology agency Integrated Health Information System (IHiS) noticed some “unusual activities” on July 4. The hackers were able to harvest “privileged account credentials” by going through a front-end workstation. The security officers were able to mitigate the damage of the attack and relayed the cybercrime to Cybersecurity Agency of Singapore (CSA) and the country’s health ministry.

“No other patient records, such as diagnosis, test results or doctors’ notes, were breached [and] we have not found evidence of a similar breach in the other public healthcare IT systems,” the agencies said.

The attack is believed to be “deliberate, targeted, and well-planned,” according to the statement of CSA and IHiS.

The agencies secured SingHealth’s IT systems “including temporarily separating internet access from workstations, resetting user and systems accounts, and installing additional system monitoring controls,” according to ZDNet, while also conducting an investigation.

The Prime Minister said the government has formed a Committee on Inquiry to look into the incident and also improve the security policies of SingHealth as well as the IT systems of other public sectors.

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