SMS hyperlinks from government agencies are still required in some circumstances: Shanmugam

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SINGAPORE: Hyperlinks in text messages from government agencies are still necessary when delivering public services in certain circumstances, such as mobilizing citizens to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the Minister of Health said on Tuesday (September 13). Interior, K Shanmugam.

To mitigate risk, if the government agency finds it necessary to send hyperlinks in the text messages, the agency will only use a domain ending in .gov.sg, Shanmugam said. Nor will it require users to provide their credentials through the websites accessed through the hyperlinks.

Mr Shanmugam was responding to a parliamentary question from NMP Shahira Abdullah, who asked about removing hyperlinks from text messages, which are known to increase the risk of phishing.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Scams (IMCS) will continue to study the use of hyperlinks in other sectors and work with industry partners to adjust their use if necessary, Shanmugam wrote in his response.

“As scammers may switch to other communication channels, removing hyperlinks in text messages does not eliminate the risk of users falling prey to phishing attempts. Users should continue to be vigilant,” said he added.

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

This follows a series of online banking scams, including an SMS phishing scam involving OCBC Bank which affected hundreds of people and caused them to lose a total of around S$13.7 million.

Mr Shanmugam said the IMCS takes an “industry-based and risk-calibrated” approach to removing hyperlinks in text messages.

“This takes into account the trade-offs between phishing risks and service facilitation that hyperlinks allow,” he added.

The inter-ministerial committee has been working with the Singapore Banking Association to get banks to remove hyperlinks in text messages sent to retail customers, said Shanmugam, who is also justice minister.

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