By Dawn Tay
A GOVERNMENT agency has been set up to safeguard Singapore against terror attacks and espionage through the Internet.
The Singapore Infocomm Technology Security Authority (Sitsa), which starts operating today, will be the national specialist authority in securing the country against infocomm-technology (IT) threats.
It will come under the Ministry of Home Affairs' (MHA) Internal Security Department.
Its creation comes in the wake of crippling cyber-attacks in recent years on websites of governments and major organisations in countries such as Estonia, Georgia and the United States.
In some cases, these attacks disrupted government correspondence and online banking.
For example, in July this year, 11 South Korean websites, including those of its presidential office and Parliament, crashed after a barrage of cyber- attacks that appeared to be linked to North Korea.
They underscore the need for the agency, said an MHA spokesman.
The agency will beef up Singapore's cyber-defence capabilities by roping in private-sector professionals to toughen the existing national infocomm infrastructure.
It will also improve Singapore's response against cyber-attacks through holding regular simulations that test the country's ability to respond and recover from online attacks.
Terrorism and IT experts lauded the launch of the new agency as "timely", as governments, criminal syndicates and terrorist groups are wielding increasingly advanced IT capabilities, which pose greater threats to online security.
Professor Rohan Gunaratna, who heads the Nanyang Technological University's International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said that the main threats to Singapore's IT security are governments seeking out state secrets, and global criminal syndicates out to steal personal and corporate information.
This could include credit card information, financial data and commercial secrets.
He added: "The Government understands the growing threat and wants to stay a step ahead."
Mr Ilias Chantzos, a director of government relations at IT-security firm Symantec, said that cyber-security is a global problem, with a "mature and thriving underground economy" dealing in various Web services used to launch cyber-attacks.
These include vandalism, disruption of services and information theft.
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