The best security against Internet “user error”? You won’t like the answer

Here’s a shocker.

Singapore that aspires to be a smart nation within a few years, has decided to remove Internet access to some 100,000 computers that their public servants use. Granted that they recognise the extent of impact of this decision and are giving themselves about 12 months to implement this measure.

But, why such a drastic move at all in the first place? With most of an economy’s workforce heavily reliant upon technology and especially access to the Internet, to be productive, won’t taking away use of the Internet at work, negatively impact productivity?

Some may argue that this bodes well for productivity. But the real reason for this extreme move is actually to tighten security.

Singapore’s The Straits Times which reported about the memo going out to all government agencies, ministries and statutory boards here about the Internet blockade a year from now, can be found here.

The report goes on to say, “Trials started with some employees within the IDA – the lead agency for this exercise – as early as April. Web surfing can be done only on the employees’ personal tablets or mobile phones as these devices do not have access to government email systems.”

It also alluded to the main fear that staff may download malware accidentally or share sensitive information online.

Turning to a non-technology solution

The report begs the question of “what the hell has happened in recent months” that such a measure is being taken.

But above all, by cutting off access to the Internet for these public service terminals, it may seem the Singapore government intends to clearly delineate work from play for its public servants, after having exhausted all security options.

This is a clear case of a beneficial tool ie. the Internet, earning itself a bad name because of misuse or “user error” whether intentional or not intentional on the users’ part.

Until we find a technological security solution against “user error” and “social engineering” is going back to basics with an Internet blockade policy like Singapore’s such a bad idea?


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