SMS hyperlinks from government agencies still necessary in certain circumstances: Shanmugam

SINGAPORE: Hyperlinks in government agency SMS are still needed when providing public services in certain circumstances, such as mobilizing citizens to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Interior Minister K Shanmugam said Tuesday (Sept. 13).

To mitigate the risks, if the government agency evaluates that it is necessary to send hyperlinks in SMS, the agency will only use a domain ending in .gov.sg, Shanmugam said. It will also not ask users to provide their credentials through websites accessed via hyperlinks.

Shanmugam was responding to a parliamentary question from NMP Shahira Abdullah, calling for the removal of hyperlinks from SMS, known to increase the risk of phishing.

The Interministerial Committee on Fraud (IMCS) will continue to study the use of hyperlinks in other sectors and will work with industry partners to adjust their use as needed, wrote Mr. Shanmugam in his response.

‚ÄúSince scammers can switch to other communication channels, removing hyperlinks in SMS does not eliminate the risk of users falling prey to phishing attempts. Users should continue to exercise vigilance, “she added.

Earlier this year, the government said it was reviewing the use of texting and clickable links when communicating with members of the public.

This came after a series of online banking scams, including an SMS phishing scam involving OCBC bank that affected hundreds of people and saw them lose a total of around S $ 13.7 million.

Shanmugam said IMCS takes an “industry-based, risk-calibrated” approach to removing hyperlinks in SMS.

“This is because of the trade-offs between the risks of phishing and the facilitation of services that hyperlinks allow,” he added.

The inter-ministerial committee worked with the Association of Banks in Singapore to persuade banks to remove hyperlinks in text messages sent to retail customers, said Shanmugam, who is also minister of law.

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