Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Cyber taunt counters Singapore's stance on information security and WikiLeaks
Singapore’s military muscle has been flaunted in a cyber taunt that shows what lurks behind the fence line of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) installations.
The timing of the blog post on appears to be a snub to warnings by the Singaporean government that it will come down hard on WikiLeaks-type impresarios.
See the cyber taunt for yourself here.
The images posted give bird’s eye views of selected SAF bases used by the Army, Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN). The images of these premises, which show the military infrastructure and equipment contained therein, are the stuff of wet dreams for defence buffs.
It is also the best advertisement the SAF can ask for.
Thanks to the images, any viewer who knows nothing about Singapore’s defence would realize that for a tiny city state, Singapore’s military packs quite a punch. Posted on the internet on a (presumably) high traffic site, it reaches eyeballs around the globe, educating those clueless about Singapore’s strategy of deterrence with images that show dormant military might.
No fewer than four RSAF air bases are showcased. KC-135R aerial refueling tankers on the flightline at Changi Air Base (West) suggest the long reach of RSAF warplanes.
And thank goodness for all the fatigue parties and nagging RSMs who roster full-time National Servicemen for mundane tasks like gardening. All the camps look spick and span, with recreational facilities like swimming pools and running tracks making camp complexes look more liveable than rundown districts in some countries.
Contrast this with the SAF post-Independence in 1965. Singapore had no air force, a two-ship navy and just two battalions of infantry.
It will be clear from the cyber taunt that the SAF has grown into a tri-Service fighting force housed in elaborate camp facilities, air and naval bases, plus a plethora of hardened ammo dumps covered by grass-covered knolls paid for by Singaporean tax payers.
Even without Google Earth’s all-seeing eye, security planners must realize the challenges keeping military installations secret in a country with a National Service army. The name and address of SAF camps can be found in literature for Operationally Ready National Servicemen (i.e. reservists), blocks of public housing in Jurong and Hougang give residents a panoramic view of RSAF runways – and a blast of the sound of freedom every time a RSAF warplane roars into the air on full reheat.
What Singapore should keep secret – and this is perhaps the crux of the government’s tough stance on OSA breaches – are the special modifications made to black boxes in military hardware that give SAF war machines that extra edge in battle.
No amount of imagery intelligence can reveal why the RSAF’s F-5 fighters are a cut above the rest, as these supersonic warplanes look almost identical to F-5s flown by regional air arms.
Satellite imagery may photograph SAF munitions depots whenever Indonesian haze doesn’t shroud the Republic’s skies, but no satellite sensor can peer into the depots to spot what lies within.
The blog post on SAF installations reveals the amount of data that people can trawl from satellite images, if they know what they are looking for. Indeed, military forces the world over have been the subject of close attention by netizens and self-appointed imagery analysts on various sites like this one here.
So there's no reason for histrionics just because Singapore's secrets have been supposedly laid bare. Afterall, Google Earth wasn't invented yesterday.
And just as the curious, the cheeky and the scheming rely on satellite imagery to find out more about Singapore’s security apparatus, Singaporeans must likewise leverage on such technology to keep an eye on its neighbourhood.
In some ways, the SAF is already doing so - and has been at it since pre-WikiLeaks days.
The work these professionals perform - out of the limelight and without public recognition - gives tiny Singapore the ability to see above and beyond.
Posted by David Boey at 1:29 PM