The Singapore Government has confirmed that it will prevent officials from accessing the internet on locked-down work computers.

“We have started to separate internet access from the work stations of a selected group of public service officers, and will do so for the rest of the public service officers progressively over a one-year period,” a spokesperson said.

Government officials will be able to request a second device for browsing the internet, however. This will not be able to access the email system or citizen data, the IDA said, to ensure that citizen data is sealed off from “exfiltration attempts”.

In practice, many officials will have two devices on their desk – one that accesses the secure government network, and one that is not locked down at all.

The computers will still have USB ports, so they will not be completely secure from hacking or theft attempts.

There has been no confirmation on whether mobile devices will be able to access the internet and work emails.

HR and communications officials are likely to be among the first with this setup, an official said, and departments will be responsible for allocation.

The confirmation comes after a report by the Straits Times newspaper this morning. The report, based on a leaked document, said the policy has been implemented – ironically – to stop leaks. It is also intended to increase the security of government computing.

The move differs from many other leading digital nations, which are broadening internet access for officials on government devices, and encouraging staff to learn digital skills. Some websites, such as social networks and personal email accounts, are blocked but staff are generally able to access news sites and e-government services.

A spokesperson said that Singapore has taken this decision because of an uptick in hacking attempts to steal government data. A report published today showed that 5% of all hacking attempts take place in the city state.

Reaction online has been mixed, with scepticism about the move and how it ties into the country’s vision to be a Smart Nation. Once it is fully implemented, 100,000 workstations will be blocked from the internet, the BBC reported.

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