Singapore faced more cybercrime, ransomware threats in 2021

CNA – Firms and individuals in Singapore faced an increased number of cybercrime, phishing and ransomware threats last year, according to a report released by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) yesterday.

There were 137 ransomware cases in 2021, a 54 per cent jump from the 89 reported in 2020.

In a ransomware attack, hackers – or threat actors – use malicious software to encrypt files on a device, then demand ransom to undo their work.

The cases affected mostly small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) from sectors such as manufacturing and IT, said CSA in its annual Singapore Cyber Landscape publication.

“The around-the-clock nature of these sectors’ operations did not provide for much time to patch their systems, thus potentially allowing ransomware groups to exploit vulnerabilities,” the agency added.

Ransomware groups targetting SMEs used a model known as “Ransomware-as-a-Service”, which makes sophisticated ransomware strains accessible to less technically adept cybercriminals.

This made it easier for amateur hackers to use existing infrastructure to distribute ransomware payloads, said CSA.

A man uses a laptop. PHOTO: CNA

Phishing cases also rose by 17 per cent last year, with about 55,000 unique Singapore-hosted phishing URLs – with a “.sg” domain – observed.

In 2020, there were 47,000 such URLs identified.

Phishing refers to the practice of inducing people to reveal their personal information such as account passwords and credit card numbers.

Social networking firms made up more than half of the spoofed targets of phishing cases, said CSA.

“This was possibly driven by malicious actors’ exploitation of public interest in WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy announcement on users’ phone numbers being shared with Facebook,” the agency added.

Scammers also exploited the COVID-19 pandemic amid the Omicron variant outbreak in late 2021 to spoof government websites, said CSA.

The Singapore Police Force also reported cybercrime as a key concern, with 22,219 cases recorded last year – up 38 per cent from 16,117 cases in 2020.

Online scams made up the top cybercrime category in Singapore, accounting for 81 per cent of the cases. Of the rest, 17…