MCI's Response to PQ on Protecting Singaporeans' Financial Transactions in View of Insanet’s Spyware
Parliament Sitting on 6 November 2023
QUESTION FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
73. Ms Poh Li San: To ask the Minister for Communications and Information with regard to Insanet’s advanced spyware which can be installed on computers and mobile devices via advertisements, and had been legally authorised by the Israeli government for sale, what measures are put in place to protect our users, especially in relation to banking and financial transactions.
Insanet’s advanced spyware product, named “Sherlock”, is yet another development in the fast-evolving cyber threat landscape. Such products are not new. Spyware is a type of sophisticated malware which is used to target specific high-value individuals, and is designed to secretly obtain sensitive information and monitor someone’s activities. According to media reports, Sherlock can infect a mobile device if it was used simply to view an ‘infected’ online advertisement. The same reports also say that the sale of Sherlock is subject to tight restrictions, including approval from the Israeli government. It is also an expensive spyware that has a multi-million-dollar price tag, and requires a significant amount of resources, advanced planning, and trained personnel to target its victim successfully.
There have been no reported cases of Sherlock infections in Singapore. This will not be the last time we hear of sophisticated spyware being developed. Our security agencies will continue to guard against such threats.
Spyware is different from the malware-enabled scams we see in Singapore. Malware-enabled scams target banking and financial transactions, and typically trick users to download and install a malicious app. At the individual level, we must continue to stay vigilant, and practise good cyber hygiene, such as avoiding untrustworthy websites and unknown apps, updating software promptly, and using anti-virus software and security apps. Such cyber hygiene practices will go a long way in protecting ourselves.