Australia: The Singapore draft Cybersecurity Bill and the way towards cyber security fitness

Last Updated: 15 October 2017
Article by Alexandra Wedutenko

Most Read Contributor in Australia, October 2017

Singapore's draft cyber security laws have a potentially wide reach, and could affect many Australian businesses.

Cyber security is one of the major global issues of our time. In September 2017, the Economist's Intelligence Unit ranked a major cyber-attack as one of the ten most probable and impactful global risks. For a sense of magnitude, risks considered to be lower include a war on the Korean peninsula, multiple countries withdraw from the euro zone and global growth surges . The ability of nations to withstand the shock of realised cyber threats and new forms of cyber-attacks is the new measure of national security and economic fitness. And as data inter-connectivity between counties increases so does the call for structures at home and abroad to address threats of such magnitude.

The Australian Government has just released for consultation an exposure draft of a Bill to regulate approximately 100 assets in the highest-risk sectors of ports, electricity and water, requiring operational information to be provided, and allowing the Minister to issue a direction to an owner or operator of a critical infrastructure asset to mitigate significant national security risks (for example, by implementing extra cyber security measures to guard against data theft or unauthorised access to the asset's control network through a legitimate connection to the asset. We'll be looking at this in more detail in future articles.

Given this context, it is a useful exercise to consider a new cyber security law proposed by one of Australia's nearby trading partners, which will affect:

  • Australians who own or operate a computer or computer systems in Singapore; and
  • Australians who provide cyber security services in Singapore, or to Australian organisations active in Singapore.

A comparative study - the Singaporean Cybersecurity Bill

Singapore is Australia's largest trade and investment partner in the Association of South Eastern Asian Nations. The Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement reflects our increasingly connected business environments. In 2016, Australia and Singapore agreed to enhance their military intelligence sharing operations via an inter-governmental memorandum of understanding.

Singapore's draft Cybersecurity Bill sets out a single, comprehensive framework for addressing cyber security threats on a national scale. Thus, Singapore has taken a step further than Australia. The Cybersecurity Bill complements and supports the obligations in the Singaporean privacy legislation, the Personal Data Protection Act by proposing to place new obligations on owners and controllers of computer systems. The Cybersecurity Bill is expected to be passed by the Singaporean parliament by the start of 2018.

Key Singaporean reforms

  • Establishes the Commissioner of Cyber Security with broad powers and functions to prevent cyber-attacks and implement cyber protection measures.
  • Establishes the concept of "critical information infrastructure" (CIIs) and a comprehensive regulatory framework for designated CIIs which includes a reporting regime and participation in national cyber security stress tests. CIIs are defined as computers or computer systems that are necessary for the continuous delivery of "essential services" (such as energy, water and banking and finance) which would debilitate. among other things, Singapore's national security, foreign relations, defence, economy and public order. A computer system is defined as an arrangement of interconnected computers and includes information technology systems and operational systems such as an industrial control system, programmable logic controller or distributed control system.
  • Grants the Commissioner broad powers to investigate and prevent cyber security incidents including by directing organisations to remediate cyber incidents, installing software and taking possession of computer systems to prevent serious cyber-attacks.
  • Establishes a framework for the sharing of cyber security information.
  • Sets up a regulatory regime for "cyber service providers".

New Commissioner of Cyber Security

Under the Cybersecurity Bill, the Minister may appoint a Commissioner of Cyber Security. The Commissioner will have an interesting mix of investigative and regulatory powers combined with a broader focus on advocating Singapore's cyber security interests overseas. The Commissioner will, among other things:

  • oversee and maintain the cyber security of computers and computer systems in Singapore;
  • advise the government or other public authority on national needs and policies in respect of cyber security matters generally;
  • monitor cyber security threats and respond to cyber security incidents that threaten Singapore's national security, defence, economy, foreign relations, public health, public order, public safety or essential services, whether such cybersecurity threats or incidents occur in or outside of Singapore;
  • identify and designate critical information infrastructure;
  • establish cyber security codes of practice and standards of performance for implementation of owners of critical information infrastructure;
  • represent the government and advocate Singapore's interests on cyber security issues internationally;
  • cooperate with CERTs internationally on cyber security incidents;
  • develop and promote the cyber security industry in Singapore; and
  • establish standards in relation to cyber security practitioners and products in Singapore.

We do not know how the Commissioner will utilise his/her resources to administer such a broad range of functions. In Australia the Privacy Commissioner, for example, has taken on an educational role rather than an enforcement role in the administration of the Privacy Act. From Australia's perspective, it will be interesting to see, if the Cybersecurity Bill gets up, which functions the Commissioner focuses on - regulatory, investigative, advisory or international co-operation.

Proactive measures to prevent cyber threats

An interesting feature of the Cybersecurity Bill is the Commissioner's (and investigating officer's) broad power to take significant proactive measures to prevent a cyber threat. The measures may affect any person who carries out commercial activities in Singapore and in particular, those who own or manage a computer or computer system even if those systems are not designated CIIs. Further, the duties on computer or computer system owners/managers substantially increases if the Commissioner decides that such systems may be involved in significant cyber security incidents.

Based on the current Cybersecurity Bill, the Commissioner or an appointed investigating officer may investigate the potential impact of a cyber security threat based on information received by the Commissioner to prevent further harm and includes the power to:

  • require statements from any person about the cyber security threat or incident;
  • require any person to produce a physical or electronic record, document with any information that the investigating officer considerers to be related to any matter relevant to the investigation; and
  • require the attendance of and orally examine any person who appears to be acquainted with the facts and circumstances relating to the cyber security threat (failure to attend without lawful excuse being an offence penalised by a fine and potentially imprisonment).

Where the Commissioner is satisfied the threat is sufficiently severe (assessed against criteria such as severity of harm and impact on national security) and the investigating officer has reasonable cause to suspect that system is impacted by a security threat:

  • direct any person to carry out remedial measures to a computer system. Remedial measures include installing software updates, disconnecting infected computers and redirecting malicious data traffic to designated computer servers;
  • require the owner of a computer or computer system to carry out steps to assist with the investigation including allowing investigating officers to install any software program on computers or interconnect any equipment to the computer for the purpose of investigations.

The Commissioner or an appointed investigating officer may also:

  • assess, inspect and check the operation of computers and copy extracts from any electronic record or program contained in a computer that may be impacted by a cyber security incident; and
  • with the consent, take possession of any computer or other equipment of the purpose of conducting a full examination or analysis.

Based on the current drafting, there seems to be a notable absence of structural checks and balances to guard against abuse of power or process with respect to the powers of investigating officers and their use of preventative measures.

Similar process issues may arise with respect to the relevant Minister's expansive powers to prevent cyber threats by implementing emergency cyber security measures. Under the draft Cybersecurity Bill, if the Minister is satisfied that it is necessary to prevent any threat to essential services or other national security concerns (including foreign relations and public order of Singapore), the Minister may direct any person or organisation to take such measures as may be necessary to prevent, detect or counter any threat to a computer system or any class of computers or systems or services.

Critical Information Infrastructure (CIIs)

Under the Singaporean Cybersecurity Bill, the Commissioner will regulate systems designated as CIIs. Owners of CIIs will need to comply with a range of obligations including to:

  • provide technical information to the Commissioner about the CII;
  • notify the Commissioner about cyber security incidents including in interconnected systems;
  • cause regular audits of compliance with the Act by an audited approved by the Commissioner;
  • notify the Commissioner about changes in ownership of CII;
  • carry out regular risk assessments of the CII as required by the Commissioner; and
  • participate in cybersecurity exercises as required by the Commissioner.

While regular audits and risk assessments are conventional risk management techniques, the obligation to provide technical information and to participate in cyber security exercises are broad measures.

There are risks for persons and organisations in providing technical information to government agencies. While the Commissioner will not require disclosure of information that is subject to a law prohibiting disclosure, the Commissioner is otherwise able to require disclosure. CII owners who fail to provide information or fail to comply with the notice requiring disclosure, without reasonable excuse, will be liable to pay up to $100,000 or may be imprisoned for up to two years. CII owners will also be liable to a fine of up to $25,000 and/or two years imprisonment if they do not notify the Commissioner of material changes to that information within 30 days of making that change.

While the Cyber Security Strategy has recognised the importance of cyber security stress tests to enhance cyber capabilities, it seems the Australian Government does not currently intend to require organisations to participate. Under the Singaporean Cybersecurity Bill, the Commissioner will have the power to conduct, and compel private sector participation in, national cyber security exercises for the purposes of testing the state of readiness of owners of different CIIs in responding to significant cybersecurity incidents at a national level. If an owner of a CII does not participate in this exercise they will be liable to pay a fine of up to $100,000 and may be imprisoned for up to two years and more if it constitutes a continuing offence.

At this stage, there is no guidance on what kinds of exercises will constitute a national cyber security exercise. It will be fascinating to see how such a requirement will be achieved in practice and how legitimate business interests with respect to proprietary systems, information and cost are addressed.

Cyber service provider licences

Singapore also proposes to set up a regulatory regime for persons or businesses defined as "cyber security service providers". Under the current Cybersecurity Bill, cyber security services include non-investigative services such as designing and implementing cyber security solutions and investigative services such as forensic analysis and cyber threat responses.

If a provider supplies such services, they must obtain a licence from the Cyber Security Agency and if licensed, will have significant duties to keep records (including personal information of customers) and provide that information to the Commission. If any person fails to comply with this duty, they will be guilty of an offence and liable to pay up to $10,000 or may be imprisoned for up to one year or both.

The way forward

Singapore has a culture of compliance with international standards. If passed, Singapore's implementation of the new cyber security law and associated policies will be important to monitor to see if a unified cyber law is a preferable way to address the issue in Australia. In addition, the proposed Singaporean law may impact on Australians who own or operate a computer or computer systems in Singapore.

Australians who provide cyber security services in Singapore or to Australian organisations active in Singapore should also be aware of the licensing obligations proposed under the Singaporean Cybersecurity Bill.

Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin. Persons listed may not be admitted in all states and territories.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Emails

From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.