Singapore Prepares for Presidential Election Amidst Online Threats and Foreign Interference
Singapore is taking proactive measures to protect its population and electoral process from online threats and foreign interference leading up to the upcoming presidential election. The government has issued warnings to the general public and potential candidates about potential risks such as misinformation and disinformation, data theft, and disruption, urging them to take necessary precautions.
Scheduled for September 1, the Presidential Election will proceed if more than one candidate qualifies to run, a decision that will be announced on August 22 after the assessment by the election and community committees. The president of Singapore serves a six-year term as the head of state, with a largely symbolic role and custodianship of the country’s reserves. Currently, six applications have been submitted, including one from former Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who previously held the position of Deputy Prime Minister. The incumbent President Halimah Yacob, who was elected uncontested in 2017, is not seeking re-election.
Various government ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore Police Force, and Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, have released statements highlighting reports of foreign interference in elections in other countries. Examples cited include the US Presidential Election and Mid-Term Elections in 2020 and 2018 respectively, as well as the French Presidential Elections in 2017. The government agencies emphasized that Singapore is not immune to such threats and stressed the importance of safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process.
Candidates running in the election are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with potential threats and take necessary steps to enhance their cybersecurity posture. The government agencies advised candidates to learn about precautionary measures to protect their IT infrastructure, online and social media accounts, as well as the storage and management of their data. They also urged candidates to remain vigilant by monitoring their platforms for suspicious activity and to refrain from sharing or reposting content of suspicious origin.
Data security is a significant concern, as threat actors can compromise data through social engineering, malware infection, or exploiting software vulnerabilities. Breached data can be sold or published, potentially damaging the credibility of political parties and candidates. Moreover, threat actors may use the data to launch further attacks on other IT systems, causing further disruption to campaign activities. Therefore, election candidates are advised to ensure the security of their IT systems and digital assets, designating a responsible person to oversee the campaign’s cybersecurity posture.
The government agencies also reminded the general public to maintain appropriate online conduct during the election period and refrain from engaging in behaviors that violate existing laws. Sharing or reposting misinformation and disinformation may lead to liability under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act. Additionally, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) allows for action against individuals who knowingly communicate false messages or misleading content.
Singapore is taking these proactive measures to safeguard its electoral processes and ensure that the upcoming presidential election is free from online threats and foreign interference. By raising awareness and providing guidance to the public and candidates, the government aims to protect the integrity of the election and preserve the democratic principles of the nation.