This article has been written by Shyamali Panda pursuing Diploma in US Technology Law and Paralegal Studies: Structuring, Contracts, Compliance, Disputes and Policy Advocacy and edited by Shashwat Kaushik.
This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.
Table of Contents
Have you ever been stalked by someone online? The definite presumption for this question is that the answer would be yes. Most of the time, we think of it as harmless and truth be told, we might have done it once or twice to get to know more about a person. But do you know stalking falls under the category of cybercrime? Likewise, there are a lot of things that keep happening in our day-to-day lives that we consider as innocuous but often, in their most aggravated form, they turn into crimes. In this article, we are going to focus on this subject matter, i.e., cybercrime, and we are going to delve deep into the consequences of cybercrime in Singapore.
What are cybercrimes
Cybercrime is defined as “any violations of criminal law that involve a knowledge of computer technology for their perpetration, investigation, or prosecution”. It is still a nascent area where, in certain jurisdictions, the definitions are still cropping up; what might be a crime in one country might not be a crime in another. The countries have still not reached a consensus regarding this.
Moreover, Internet usage has gone over the roof everywhere around the world and this in turn raises the number of cyber crimes committed on a day-to-day basis. To contain this, a lot of legal developments have been brought into force, and international covenants have been framed to bind the countries and to bring in a level of uniformity that needs to be attached to this definition. It has taken the form of an unruly monster that needs to be tamed.
Kinds of cybercrimes
As stated above, the kinds and types of cybercrimes keep changing from one place to another, as does their criminalization. As stated below, these are the most common cybercrimes.
Have you ever clicked on a link or a page and been redirected to some other website that looks a little dubious to you? Pictures and videos spawn over the website that you are not interested in looking at and you see your computer malfunctioning. Well, that’s Internet fraud for you. This is a large network which covers theft services, banking fraud, email fraud, spam, etc.
Virat Kohli’s 3-year-old daughter was subjected to rape threats on Twitter just because he lost a match. Celebrities, Cricketers and influencers are the most common victims of cyberbullying (although not limited to them). The luxury of wearing a mask on your face and threatening, bullying or teasing people about their activities and having an opinion about anything and everything, with no bar upon the freedom of the right exercised on such public platforms, has resulted in unsettling forms of cyberbullying.
Emails and SMS’s about 1 lakh rupees being credited into your account, congratulatory messages about winning a lottery or a call from someone claiming to be an employee of your bank asking for your debit/credit card essentials are some of the forms of phishing attacks. Every other person that you know has come across these kinds of things at some point in their lives. It has become quite prevalent in our society.
Nowadays, for any service that we avail, we need to provide our personal details in order to get an effective and customised service. If you have searched for anything on Google, you can see similar types of content on Instagram and Facebook. It is not a mere coincidence but rather that our data is being used by the organisations and shared with a third party. We often don’t think twice before logging into a website using our Google credentials and that particular website can access all our personal information. As scary as this thing sounds, it can get scarier if a hacker hacks into the system, takes our information and uses it to his own benefit, thereby committing fraud or identity theft.
These are some of the categories of cybercrime that we see happening around us regularly.
Cybercrimes in Singapore
Singapore, when it comes to cybercrime, has been ranked 4th in the world. This does not paint a good picture and it might worsen over time. The rise in Internet usage can be partly blamed on the establishment of Singapore, which- tried to boost it via its Intelligent Nation 2015 Masterplan. There has been a recent surge in Singapore-linked botnet devices, which are being used to hack into household devices. A botnet is a “network or collection of internet-connected devices that are infected by malware and remotely controlled by the hacker”. It infects the target computer first, and then it gets connected to the bot.
A study conducted by Microsoft last year found that 68 percent of youths aged 13 to 17 in Singapore receive unwanted sexual content online, with 45 percent of them approached by strangers—both of which are higher percentages than the global average.
There are no boundaries that one can set when it comes to the Internet. On one end of the spectrum, it can change a man’s life by teaching invaluable lessons and there’s no limit to the amount of knowledge that one can gain. On the other end, one can get entangled in it, get into the dark web and find themselves in prison for a crime they didn’t know they were committing.
The government of Singapore has been enacting laws and has tried opening up various conduits to constrain the issue at hand by using various methods, which we will discuss in this article.
Legislation and regulations
- The Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act (CMCA) is the primary legislation addressing cybercrime in Singapore. It criminalises unauthorised access to computer material, unauthorised modification of content, and other cyber offences.
- The Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) regulates the collection, use, and disclosure of personal data and includes provisions for the protection of personal information in the digital space.
- The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) is the national agency overseeing cybersecurity strategy and implementation.
- Singapore has launched the Safer Cyberspace Masterplan, focusing on strengthening the country’s cybersecurity posture through various initiatives, including public awareness campaigns, skills development, and collaboration with the private sector.
Incident response and reporting
The Singapore Computer Emergency Response Team (SingCERT) plays a pivotal role in responding to cybersecurity incidents. From providing timely alerts to offering guidance on best practises, SingCERT is at the forefront of the nation’s incident response efforts. Reporting mechanisms are in place to ensure that cyber incidents are promptly addressed and mitigated.
Factors that might have an impact
Here we are going to discuss Lessig’s four modalities of constraint. In his famous book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, Lawrence Lessig explains that there are four key “modalities of regulation” that attempt to limit or restrain people’s behaviour. These modalities are (1) law, (2) architecture, (3) norms and (4) the market.
One can sit in the United States and commit a crime in Singapore with just one click on their computer and by the time the user reports the crime, the perpetrator can easily get away with it and remove all trace of the crime committed. Evidence in cases of cybercrime is quite volatile in nature. To be able to keep up with such a high level of competency shown by the offenders is a real task in itself.
Singapore has not shied away from being a part of the global team that is helping to curb this and has signed a couple of agreements like the Wassenar Agreement that promotes the fight against terrorism and also became a member of the WIPO that promotes intellectual property rights. They have also tried to align their laws as per these agreements.
The architecture of cyberspace can either provide a safe haven or become a gateway for invasions of privacy. A governmental organisation in Singapore named IDA has joined hands with Infocomm Security Master Plan, who in turn are planning to improve their technologies in order to prevent any kind of cyber threat. But do you know that the dark web exists because of this very architecture? It gives something very valuable to the offenders, i.e., anonymity. By staying anonymous, they can do a number of criminal activities that are very much in demand, like child pornography, cyberbullying, sending spam over emails and defrauding people. Singapore has taken a hard-headed approach to it by blocking 100+ such offensive websites and so far, it has been seen that the crime levels have lowered.
Piracy is a term that we are all quite aware of. The large majority of the population in a country is comfortable with this concept because they don’t want to pay for watching a movie or listening to their desired music. Even minimised rates do not work for them when they can easily download it without having to spend a single penny. Singapore is still trying to devise a method to contain this issue, which is so widespread. There is one organisation called the Business Software Alliance, which incentivises whistle-blowers with a reward of 20,000 dollars and it has in some way minimised piracy offences.
We have all heard the saying “With great power comes great responsibility” from our favourite superhero movie, Spiderman. Applying the same analogy in this case, when it comes to the Internet, the world is our oyster, and there is nothing that we can’t do but remember where we should draw the line on our own. Building societal pressure, alienating people, creating social stigmas and providing education are some of the ways that can help a person come out of this dark hole if they have lost their path in this web of the Internet. The moral conscience of the people should also be tapped into, which would help them return to our society and find their place in it. Use the Internet to build your life, not to get yourself handcuffed.
Financial sector security
Given its status as a global financial hub, Singapore pays special attention to securing the financial sector against cyber threats. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) issues guidelines and requirements to bolster cybersecurity resilience in financial institutions.
In conclusion, Singapore’s proactive approach to cybersecurity reflects its commitment to safeguarding its digital future. By combining legal measures, government initiatives, public-private collaboration, international cooperation, incident response mechanisms, skills development, and a focus on critical sectors, Singapore strives to stay ahead in the ever-evolving landscape of cybercrimes. As the digital frontier expands, the city-state stands resilient, ready to face the challenges posed by an increasingly complex and interconnected digital world.
When it comes to finding a solution to any issue that is put in front of us, law and education go hand in hand. It can be effectively analysed as an infusion of good cops and bad cops in a difficult circumstance. The law acts as a bad cop by penalising people for the crimes that they have committed and education helps a person to know more about the limitations under which one must act to avoid going to prison. A code of conduct might help to formulate the do’s and don’ts, where the right balance can be achieved during the proliferation age of the Internet. The Singapore government must seek aid from cyber experts such as white hackers to understand the perspective of the perpetrators and frame the law accordingly.
Singapore, to avoid cybercrime, has very recently come up with an Online Criminal Harms Bill, which had its first reading in Parliament in the previous month. It is being touted as a proactive approach that is being taken by the government in order to address the issue of malicious activities by cybercriminals. The bill talks about swift action that will be taken by the government before any actual harm is done to users. We need to see how these new promises actually pan out in driving out the menace that has been created in the past few years.
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