Thursday, 14 December 2017

MINDEF to invite 300 hackers to test its cyber defences

MINDEF Bug Bounty Programme: International and local hackers will try to locate vulnerabilities in its Internet-linked systems
By Lim Min Zhang, The Straits Times, 13 Dec 2017

In a first for the Government, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) will be inviting about 300 international and local hackers to hunt for vulnerabilities in its Internet-connected systems next year, in a bid to guard against ever-evolving cyber threats.

From Jan 15 to Feb 4, these selected experts will try to penetrate eight of MINDEF's Internet-facing systems, such as the MINDEF website, the NS Portal and LearNet 2 Portal, a learning resource portal for trainees.

These registered hackers can earn cash rewards - or bounties - of between $150 and $20,000, depending on how critical the flaws discovered are. Called the MINDEF Bug Bounty Programme, it will be the Government's first crowdsourced hacking programme.

This follows an incident earlier this year when MINDEF discovered that hackers had stolen the NRIC numbers, telephone numbers and birth dates of 854 personnel in a breach of its I-Net system.

One of the systems being tested, Defence Mail, uses the I-net system for MINDEF and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel to connect to the Internet.



Yesterday, the new programme was announced by defence cyber chief David Koh after a visit to the Cyber Defence Test and Evaluation Centre - a cyber "live-firing range" where servicemen train against simulated cyber attacks - at Stagmont Camp in Choa Chu Kang.

On the significance of the "Hack MINDEF" initiative, he told reporters: "The SAF is a highly networked force. How we conduct our military operations depends on networking across the army, navy, air force and the joint staff.

"Every day, we see new cyber attacks launched by malicious actors who are constantly seeking new ways to breach our systems... Clearly, this is a fast-evolving environment and, increasingly, you see that it is one that is of relevance to the defence and security domain."

The bigger picture is that cyberspace is emerging as the next battlefield, said Mr Koh, who is also the deputy secretary for special projects at MINDEF.

"Some countries have begun to recognise cyber as a domain similar to air, land and sea. Some have even gone so far as to say that the next major conflict will see cyber activity as the first activity of a major conflict," he added.

While there will be some risks in inviting hackers to test the systems, such as an increase in website traffic and the chance that these "white-hat" hackers will turn over discovered vulnerabilities to the dark Web, measures will be put in place to guard against this.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Dakota Crescent to be redeveloped for public housing; iconic dove playground and parts of estate to be retained

Dakota icons to be kept as estate is redeveloped
Playground, courtyard to stay; six blocks to be repurposed for civic and community uses
By Toh Wen Li, The Straits Times, 12 Dec 2017

Dakota Crescent, one of Singapore's oldest public housing estates, will start a fresh chapter when new public flats are built there, but it will not turn the page entirely on the past.

The historic estate's courtyard and iconic dove playground will be retained, along with the six blocks around them. These blocks will be repurposed for civic and community uses, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said in a Facebook post yesterday.

His announcement was welcomed by those advocating the conservation of the 59-year-old estate.

Dakota Crescent's 17 low-rise blocks with 648 units off Old Airport Road were developed by the Singapore Improvement Trust in 1958 as a public rental housing estate, and handed over to the Housing Board in 1960 - the year the statutory board was formed.

The estate was named after the Douglas DC-3 Dakota, a model of plane that used to land at Kallang Airport.

In 2014, the Government said the estate would make way for developments under renewal plans for Mountbatten, and residents had till the end of last year to vacate their flats.

Of the 17 blocks, which have hardly changed in nearly six decades, two - Blocks 13 and 21 across Old Airport Road - have been kept for interim use under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme. This scheme allows eligible buyers waiting for their new flats to be built to have a place to stay in the meantime.

Blocks 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20, the central cluster of blocks around the playground, will be kept.

These comprise two seven-storey curved "butterfly" blocks, two seven-storey slab blocks, one three-storey block and a two-storey block - all representative of the four types of SIT buildings.

Mr Wong said in his Facebook post that redeveloping the estate for public housing "will provide more public housing options near the city, and allow another generation of Singaporeans to build their own memories of the place".

"To achieve this, we will need new HDB flats in the estate that can better serve the housing needs of Singaporeans," he added.

Fees at polytechnics, ITE to increase for students enrolling in the 2018 academic year

New poly and ITE students to pay more
Fees up by 3% to 7% next year but remain heavily subsidised by Govt, says ministry
By Amelia Teng, Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 12 Dec 2017

Tuition fees for students entering the polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) next year will go up by between 3 per cent and 7 per cent.

The new fees, posted on the institutions' websites yesterday, apply only to newcomers in the 2018 academic year.

Tuition fees for polytechnics and the ITE have been rising yearly in the past few years and, as with previous hikes, the increase will be bigger for permanent residents (PRs) and foreigners than citizens.

The Education Ministry told The Straits Times that the Government continues to subsidise heavily polytechnic and ITE education for Singaporeans - at about 85 per cent and over 90 per cent respectively.

Its spokesman said the higher fees are "to allow the polytechnics and ITE to continue to deliver a high-quality education to Singaporeans".

Singaporeans entering the five polytechnics next year will pay an annual tuition fee of $2,800, up from the $2,700 their seniors paid.

The polytechnic fees for PRs and international students will climb to $5,600 and $10,000 respectively, up by $200 and $400.

Fees for full-time ITE Nitec courses will go up by $20 for Singaporeans, while PRs and foreign students will pay $300 and $900 more respectively. Fees for the higher Nitec courses remain unchanged.

The ministry's spokesman said students who need help can approach the financial aid offices in the institutions.

She also said the ministry, with the institutions, "will ensure that financial assistance is available to students who need it, and that no deserving student is denied a polytechnic or ITE education due to financial difficulties".

Financial aid to help students defray their costs of living is also available, she added.

Government bursary amounts were raised this year. Polytechnic and ITE students can get up to $2,350 and $1,400 a year respectively, depending on household income.

"The household per capita income cut-off to qualify for the bursaries was also increased from $1,900 to $2,250 per month, which translates to a gross monthly household income of about $9,000 for a family of four," said the spokesman.

Parents and students interviewed said the fees are still affordable despite the hike, although they hope for more financial aid.

Car owners can use independent workshops without voiding warranties from 2018

Car repairs may be cheaper after lifting of warranty curbs
Independent workshops can do fixes without affecting warranty: Competition watchdog
By Adrian Lim, Transport Correspondent and Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 12 Dec 2017

Come next year, drivers will be able to fix their cars at a workshop of their choice - sometimes at far lower prices - and not worry too much about losing their warranty, the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) said in a statement yesterday.

Under current warranty restrictions, drivers may service or repair their cars only at authorised workshops. Fixing their cars at independent workshops will void the warranty.

The CCS said it has worked with major car dealers to remove these restrictions from existing and new warranties. The move comes after the commission concluded an inquiry into the supply of car parts.

Current restrictions deter car owners from using independent workshops, curbing the workshops' ability to compete effectively with authorised ones, the watchdog said.

This restriction may, in turn, allow authorised workshops to charge customers higher prices for servicing, repair and parts, it added.

The change will mean that car dealers can void warranties or reject claims only if they establish that independent workshops had damaged or caused defects to the vehicle under warranty, the watchdog added.



CCS chief executive Toh Han Li said: "The removal of the warranty restrictions will facilitate a more competitive market for car repairs and servicing, with more choices for car owners, and opportunities for existing and new independent workshops."

According to the CCS, market feedback indicates that authorised workshops can charge two to three times as much as independent workshops for comparable parts and servicing.

For example, an oil filter change at the independent workshop could cost around $100, but an authorised one will charge about $200, said an industry source.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Unjustified attacks made against the police must be rebutted; Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam addresses criticism of police raid tactics on illegal brothels

Unjustified attacks do huge disservice to police: Shanmugam
By Ng Huiwen, The Straits Times, 11 Dec 2017

Unjustified attacks made against the police should be rebutted, as these do a huge disservice to the officers in blue who put their lives at risk to keep Singapore safe, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday.

"In many countries, unjustified attacks on police have eventually led to the weakening of law enforcement," he wrote in a Facebook post.

"We do not intend to let that happen in Singapore. And I believe that the vast majority of Singaporeans support our approach to maintaining law and order," he said.

In another post, Mr Shanmugam addressed online criticism of police tactics used during recent raids on illegal brothels near Rowell Road.

Speed and surprise are key elements during raids, and the police "cannot be expected to knock on the door, and wait for a response", Mr Shanmugam said.

"What do we expect - the gangsters (who might be present) will open the door, and politely admit to their actions? And even if gangsters are not present, we expect the women involved to be cooperative?" he added.

He explained that the police wear masks during such operations to hide their identities, as the syndicates behind these illegal brothels would retaliate, if they can.



He added that he had been quite puzzled by the criticism directed at the police, and "the deeply flawed, misplaced sympathies" for those in the vice trade.

Sharing further details of the case in his post, he said that there had been complaints about the sex workers in the area, with a syndicate seemingly in operation.

During the raid last Friday, more than 20 people - all foreigners - were arrested, including a 16-year-old male sex worker. One suspect injured himself while trying to escape.

Many of them were transgender sex workers, he said, adding that the police are concerned about human trafficking as well.

While the operations were ongoing, the police had noticed a woman filming a video, he added.

She later made a post online accusing the police of "wasting taxpayer money, terrorising women". The post has since been taken down.

In response, Mr Shanmugam said: "Would she prefer that police didn't do anything? (Would she) like the sex workers to continue soliciting for customers along the roads and bringing them into HDB estates among our families and children? What about the exploitation of underage youngsters?"

Monday, 11 December 2017

Volunteers who ensure no one dies alone

NODA members support terminally ill with few or no family members in their final days
By Janice Tai, Social Affairs Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 10 Dec 2017

Mr Tay Cheng Tian, 54, died in a hospice on Nov 4. None of his family members was by his bedside when he took his last breath, but he did not die alone.

In the last few weeks of his life, a bunch of strangers befriended him and committed to spending time with him till the end.

They fulfilled his last wishes and did things such as wheeling him downstairs for smoke breaks.

When Mr Tay started deteriorating rapidly from oesophageal cancer, the volunteers took turns to sit vigil round-the-clock by his bed.

For about two days, they held his hands, whispered to him or played his favourite songs to let him know that someone was there with him.

One saw him take his last breath at 8.30am that Saturday.



"It was a privilege to be with him, knowing that he was comfortable enough with my presence to go at that moment," said Ms Angela Sho, 43, a volunteer with Assisi Hospice's No One Dies Alone (NODA) programme.

It is part of a small but growing movement to support dying people who have few or no family members or friends to accompany them in their final hours. Demand for the service is likely to grow as the number of elderly folk who live alone in Singapore surges.

The General Household Survey, released last year, shows the number of households comprising only residents aged 65 or older stood at 82,600. About half, or 41,200, are made up of residents who live alone. By 2030, the Government estimates the number of seniors who live alone will hit 83,000.

"Given the increasing trends of one-person and two-person households with the head of households over 65 years old, we foresee the number of persons who die alone may increase," said Ms Chee Wai Yee, chairman of the grief and bereavement work group at the Singapore Hospice Council.

Billion-dollar Bus Service Enhancement Programme ends after five years; 80 new services and 1,000 buses added to Singapore roads since 2012

$1.1 billion enhancement of bus services complete
Five-year programme has increased capacity of 70% of bus services and cut waiting times
By Melody Zaccheus, Heritage and Community Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 10 Dec 2017

The $1.1 billion five-year Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP), which added 1,000 government-funded buses to the country's roads, has been completed.

Since it was rolled out in September 2012, the programme has boosted the capacity of 218 bus services here, which accounts for 70 per cent of the services. This was achieved by deploying more double-decker buses and increasing trip frequencies, said the Land Transport Authority.

BSEP has also bumped up the total fleet of public buses to about 5,500.

LTA said that the programme, coupled with the transition to the Government's bus contracting model in 2014 where operators have to meet higher service standards, has shaved bus intervals from 30 minutes to 15 minutes.

Intervals for feeder services during peak periods have also been trimmed to six to eight minutes, from more than 10.



BSEP was introduced after the two publicly listed transport companies, SBS Transit and SMRT, were unable to cope with the burgeoning demand for bus services.

The expansion also helped ease the crunch on trains which also came under greater scrutiny after a series of breakdowns.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong commemorated the bus enhancement programme's conclusion at an event yesterday by launching a new service, 71. It is the 80th service introduced under BSEP.

Tuas mega port: Keeping the ships sailing in – why the mega port matters

Singapore has thrived by betting big on future trends that make or break economies, whether in air or sea transport, urban development or water sustainability. It is how the Republic rose to become the world's top transshipment hub, a leading air hub and a model liveable city. In the second of a three-part series on major infrastructure projects, Insight looks at the move to consolidate all port operations in Tuas.
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor, The Sunday Times, 10 Dec 2017

It is touted as the upcoming site of a mega port - Tuas in the west where Singapore's city port operations, including Tanjong Pagar and Pasir Panjang, will relocate to. The move will free up land for the Greater Southern Waterfront development, three times the size of Marina Bay.

But just how big is "mega"?

After all, much is at stake - the port operations now run by PSA make Singapore the world's top container transshipment hub, so the Tuas mega port must keep building on this success. This is especially as the maritime industry is a key part of the economy, accounting for 7 per cent of gross domestic product.

Yet challenges loom: While Singapore currently holds the title of world's busiest port, other countries in the region are eyeing bigger slices of the transshipment pie and boosting their infrastructure.

A visit to the new port's location, though, shows the sheer, jaw-dropping scale of what is being developed. A construction yard at the tip of the southernmost end of Tuas is a hive of activity round the clock, as 500 workers labour to assemble massive structures that will form the building blocks for the future mega port.

These watertight retaining structures - called caissons - weigh 15,000 tonnes each, the equivalent of 8,000 cars. At 28m, each is as tall as a 10-storey HDB block.

There are two production lines at the construction yard churning out eight caissons a month. When completed, each caisson is towed to sea, where they are placed on a foundation on the seabed. A total of 138 caissons have been installed as of Nov 13 - more than 60 per cent of the 222 needed to form the wharf for Phase 1 of the Tuas mega port.

First announced by then Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew in 2012, the mega port will consolidate all of Singapore's port operations in Tuas. It will open in four phases, with the first berths expected to be operational in 2021.

The multibillion-dollar Tuas project will increase the port's capacity to 65 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of cargo, more than double what the port handled last year.

This expansion is the latest in a series of bold moves to grow Singapore's port by building ahead of demand. Tuas, in fact, was considered as a potential location before Pasir Panjang was chosen in the early 1990s.

Insight examines why the port is now moving to Tuas some two decades later, and how the mega project is slated to boost Singapore's maritime industry.