[ISN] Singapore Telecom checks Internet customers for 'open windows'

From: cult hero (jerichoat_private)
Date: Fri Apr 30 1999 - 00:47:12 PDT

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    Forwarded From: William Knowles <erehwonat_private>
    SINGAPORE (April 29, 1999 11:53 p.m. EDT http://www.nandotimes.com) -
    Singapore's national telecommunications company has scanned more than
    200,000 computers of its Internet customers without their knowledge as
    part of a plan to ward off hackers, the Straits Times reported on Friday. 
    Singapore Telecom, which is 80 percent owned by the government, began the
    scan last month of nearly half of Singapore's Internet users to check
    whether its customers were vulnerable to hacker attacks, the report said. 
    The scanning would continue until all accounts of its SingNet and SingTel
    Magix customers were covered, it said. 
    "We are merely protecting the interest of our customers," the report
    quoted Singapore Telecom chief executive officer for multimedia Paul Chong
    as saying. 
    SingNet had asked the Home Affairs Ministry's IT security unit to do the
    scan following news in March of the arrest of two boys who had hacked into
    17 SingNet customers' accounts. 
    Officials at Singapore Telecom were not immediately available for comment. 
    The disclosure from Chong came after the Straits Times reported on
    Thursday that 21-year-old law student Anne Lee had complained to the
    police that someone with an account in the Home Affairs Ministry had
    hacked into her account. 
    Chong said SingTel was being "responsible" by giving customers the
    "value-added service" of scanning their computers. 
    On whether the law allowed such scanning without customers' consent, Chong
    said nothing illegal had taken place. 
    He said customers were not informed of the scan so as not to alarm them. 
    "We do not want to make a mountain out of a molehill. In the end, the scan
    might not turn up anything. If we had informed the customers, it might
    cause an alarm," Chong said. 
    He added that "real hackers might lie low" if they knew of the scan. 
    Chong was quoted as saying the scanning so far showed that some users were
    vulnerable and that they would be informed when the process was over. 
    The Home Ministry was approached because it was the "expert" in the area
    -- it helped crack the case of the two teenage hackers. 
    Chong stressed that the scan did not delve into users' computer databases,
    or amount to an illegal entry into computer accounts, the Straits Times
    "There is no invasion of privacy at all. Basically, what we did was check
    if the systems had open windows through which hackers can exploit," Chong
    Chang Wai Leong, a SingTel director, was quoted in the report as
    describing the scan as like a "policeman patrolling in cyberspace checking
    if the "windows" of the computer system are opened." 
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