Cyber Security Agency (CSA) and GovTech Singapore have together announced a joint advisory on the risks of shortened URLs.
This advisory published on 10 Jan explained that the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) shortening is a method used to generate a shorter hyperlink which is an easier process for directing users to the required webpage.
However, scammers have been using this method to disguise phishing or malware-infected websites. As a result, it has become harder to determine the legitimacy of the shortened link and users who are unaware of this may be easily tricked into clicking on these links.
In efforts for preventing such scams from taking place, The Government Technology Agency (GovTech) has launched an official URL shortening service – https://go.gov.sg. This domain will be reflected in the shortened URLs, such as in the following: https://go.gov.sg/singpass-guides.
Users can identify this domain and be able to recognise it as a legitimate web link of a government agency.
It was pointed out that web users have to be careful as to not click on suspicious looking links that could redirect users to illegitimate websites which may allow attackers to carry out malicious acts, such as installing malware, disrupting a device’s operation and gathering of personal information.
The following protective measures were listed to be taken note of:
- Users should be wary of shortened URLs such as: bit.ly and tinyurl.
- It is important to look out for the “gov.sg” domain in the URL and “go.gov.sg” domain in the shortened URLs for confirming if the site is legitimate
- Only URLs which explicitly display the website domain should be clicked on. An alternative will be to directly look up on search engines on the organisation’s website to determine if the site they have visited is legitimate
- Users should take note of misspelling and/or substitution of letters in the URLs of the websites they are browsing
- Sites which come with a valid encryption certificate will have the green lock indicated on the browser’s address bar. Users should look out for this logo before indicating any sensitive information such as personal particulars or account login details
Singapore’s government websites have been victims of malware incidents over the past two years. In a recent OpenGov article, we looked at the responses by the Minister for Defence, Dr Ng Eng Hen, on the questions posed in Parliament on Malware Incidents which occurred in October and December 2019, in Singapore.
The questions focused on the data leak which occurred at ST Logistics and the ransomware attack on HMI Institute of Health Sciences to confidential operations of MINDEF and SAF.
He was asked about the personal data leak affecting 2,400 MINDEF and SAF personnel. When did ST Logistics first discover the phishing attack and when did MINDEF come to know about the leak? And what was the follow-up action plan in place following the two incidents?
The minister shared that on 10 October 2019, MINDEF had found out that emails received from ST Logistics contained malware and they had alerted their management. ST Logistics took the first precautionary move as to block outgoing data and emails which could possibly affected by the malware.
The other incident saw HMI Institute detecting a malware infection in one of its backup servers on 4 December 2019. With the help of a cybersecurity firm, HMI investigated the infection and ascertained the individuals from MINDEF/SAF and other organisations whose personal data were on the affected backup server.
Dr Ng said that the government is looking to further strengthening oversight of its vendors. The Ministry will also be taking reference from the recommendations of the Public Sector Data Security Review Committee (PSDSRC) so that they will implement a framework to ensure that vendors protect Ministry of Defence data well.