WP Sylvia Lim Claimed her Phone Was Hacked by a Gov; Shanmugam Then Responded Harshly

If you’ve been hacked before, you’ll know how troublesome and frightening it can be for your personal information to be out there in the hands of hackers.

And no one is immune from getting hacked, even public figures.

However, it seems like that isn’t the case this time, as Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam responded to Workers’ Party (WP) chairman Ms Sylvia Lim in Parliament yesterday (18 February) by stating that state agencies did not hack her iPhone.

Lim’s Hacking Claim

In Parliament yesterday, Lim claimed that she had previously received a threat warning on her iPhone. The warning claimed that her iPhone “could have been subjected to hacking”.

She mentioned, “Not long ago, I received a threat warning from Apple informing me that it could be that my iPhone has been the subject of hacking by state-sponsored attackers, and they also said it is likely to be so because of who I am individually or what I do.

“So based on what the Minister of State said just now that reliance on technology is required for national security reasons, can I get his confirmation that I should have absolutely no concerns that the Singapore government agencies are trying to hack into my phone?”

Basically, the government wants to hack into her phone…? I wonder why.

Shanmugan’s Response

In response to Lim’s claim, Shanmugan questioned her intentions of raising the issue in Parliament as opposed to informing the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) about it and letting them conduct a thorough investigation.

He said, “If you raise it in Parliament, then we must assume the intention is to publicise the fact rather than actually get to the bottom of it, and it’s obvious then why it’s made public.”

Minister of State Tan Kiat How also echoed this sentiment.


He added that he had communicated with the Defence Ministry’s Security and Intelligence Division and said that MHA would like to take a look at the notifications that Lim has received in the past.

He said that they would like to find out who is trying to “get into her phone”.

MPs as Targets for Hacking

He also asked to see the notification and asked if she was the only one who had received it.

It would be a cause for concern for the MHA if she was the only one who received it, especially since the notification included a state-sponsored agency as claimed by Lim.

Shanmugam then highlighted the fact that Members of Parliament (MPs) are highly targetted when it comes to hacking. “MPs are high-value targets for foreign agencies. As our own experience and the experiences of other countries have shown, even as late as last year in Australia,” he explained.

But don’t let this be a reason to motivate you to hack your MP’s phone ok.

In Australia, there were reports that brought up the breach of Australia’s telecommunications system. The breach occurred around a decade ago as a result of a software update from Chinese brand Huawei which was “loaded with malicious code”.

The code allowed the personal details of users to be collected and sent to China. After the USA made this discovery, they have since been cautious of using Huawei products.

Quoting this as an example, Shanmugam concluded by saying, “It is the duty of our security agencies to be very aware of whether MPs or ministers or senior civil servants or those around them or their families are being approached or suborned, and it is in the interest of Singapore and the security of Singapore that state agencies are on top of the game.”

Singapore’s Use of Spyware

During the same Parliament session, Mr Leon Perera from the WP also asked if the government engages Israeli spyware company QuaDream’s services and if the government has used other similar services as well.

This point was brought up due to the fact that QuaDream, a company that caters to governments by offering smartphone hacking services, listed the Singapore government as one of its first clients. This information was stated in a Reuters report at the start of the month.

Tan, the Minister of State then replied by explaining, “For obvious reasons, the Government cannot and should not discuss specifics on any operational aspects or capabilities regarding our national security.

“One of the most critical responsibilities of the Government is to keep Singapore safe, secure and sovereign.”

He also highlighted the various national security threats that the government has to tackle. These threats include terrorism, foreign subversion, espionage and interference.

“To this end, agencies charged with the mission of safeguarding national security necessarily have to rely on a range of intelligence capabilities, including harnessing technology.”

TL;DR: He didn’t really answer the question, because he can’t lah.

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On the other hand, fellow WP MP He Ting Ru also asked if the government had an update regarding the investigations that the Cyber Security Agency (CSA) has carried out on the local cyber-security firm Computer Security Initiative Consultancy (COSEINC).

COSEINC was thrust into the spotlight after it was discovered that they were apparently selling hacking tools for users to obtain both individuals and organisations’ personal information. The company, which was providing its services globally, was blacklisted by the US Department of Commerce in November last year.

After the US blacklisted the company, CSA launched a series of investigations against the company.

Similar to Perera’s question, He also asked if the government had obtained any goods from COSEINC and asked for clarification regarding the relationship that the government had with the firm.

In response to her question, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary stated that “CSA found no evidence that COSEINC had breached cyber-security laws in Singapore”.

He also explained that COSEINC offers cyber-security training courses, and is one of the vendors that the government has engaged under “standard contractual terms”.

So basically they’re illegal in the US but not Singapore… Right?

“Companies found to have contravened our laws and regulations will be dealt with in accordance with the law,” he concluded.

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Featured Image: YouTube (CNA + MCI)