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IDA blames outage of Singapore government websites on technical issues, denies hackers involved

Terence Lee

Updated with statement from IDA issued on November 4.

An incident report (embedded below) purportedly by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) has determined that “routing problems” from an unnamed Internet Service Provider (ISP), along with the hardware failure of an internet router, were the causes of the massive outage that took down over 19 government websites last Saturday. While the report did not state if human error or hackers were involved, IDA later said that “at no point were these websites the target of cyber attacks.”

The document, uploaded by an unknown person, says that GDC1, an internet connection service used by many government websites, called for an urgent scheduled maintenance on November 1 from 1pm to 3pm to test “the implementation of a security solution for internet access”.

However, things started to go wrong during the test. When the internet connection was swung from its primary to secondary link, a “routing problem” was discovered on the side of the Internet Service Provider, which caused the swing to fail.

But when the internet connection was reverted back to the primary link, the internet router experienced a hardware failure. Even though a replacement router was eventually used, it had difficulty connecting to the ISP.

This disrupted government internet systems and services that are hosted at GDC1, starting from November 2 at 3pm. It also impacted the government’s Domain Name System, which meant that when users key in a web address, the system was unable to match it to the respective website.The routing issues were resolved by 5.21pm on the same day.

IDA is currently waiting for an incident report from the ISP to explain what caused the routing and connection problems. The agency did not explain if hackers were able to gain access via a backdoor through the internet router, and use that vulnerability to disrupt the internet service.

In response to Tech in Asia’s queries, IDA has issued a press release stating that their maintenance was a response to the declared threats by a hacker called The Messiah to wage war against the Government’s IT infrastructure. The timing certainly wasn’t coincidental: The warning was uploaded on YouTube on October 29, just a few days before the “urgent” scheduled maintenance.

The same hacker has also said that he will be making a virtual protest on November 5 together with the Millions Mask March event. The March is a protest movement with a mission of promoting “fairness, justice, and freedom”.

IDA also confirmed several facts that were in line with the incident report. These include a maintenance from 1pm to 3pm which led the discovery of a fault that affected selected government websites, as well as the outage’s cause being a combination of a routing issue and a hardware failure.

The government agency added that maintenance will continue in the next few days. As a result, some government websites may continue to face intermittent issues.

Leading up to tomorrow, Anonymous hackers in Asia have been on a warpath to disrupt public and private sector websites. They took down dozens of government websites in the Philippines, and followed that up by defacing 170 websites in Australia. While all of them claim to be from the same collective, it’s likely that these cracks are performed by different sub-groups.

IDA-report-Service Outage-2Nov2013.pdf by Latisha Carr

(Editing by Josh Horwitz)

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