Thursday, March 4, 2010

Security Raised In Malacca Strait After Terror Warning

SINGAPORE, March 5 (Reuters) - Malaysia and Indonesia said on Thursday they are stepping up security in the Strait of Malacca, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, following the Singapore navy's warning of possible attacks on oil tankers.

The Singapore navy "has received indication a terrorist group is planning attacks on oil tankers in the Malacca Strait", the Singapore Shipping Association said in an advisory. "The terrorists' intent is probably to achieve widespread publicity and showcase that it remains a viable group."

It did not name a group or say where the intelligence came from.

Malaysia's coast guard said it was increasing security measures in the narrow waterway that tankers use to carry oil from the Middle East to Japan and China.

Indonesia is intensifying patrols there, Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro told Reuters. "We will increase the security and step up patrols in that area. Oil tankers can pass, but we will increase our readiness."

The 900-km long (550 miles) Malacca Strait links Asia with the Middle East and Europe, carrying about 40 percent of the world's trade. More than 50,000 merchant ships ply the waterway every year.

An attack that closed the Strait of Malacca or the Singapore port even temporarily could have a disproportionate impact on global trade, since Singapore is the world's top container shipping port and biggest ship refuelling hub.

"Maritime attacks offer terrorists an alternate means of causing mass economic destabilisation," terrorism risk analyst Peter Chalk said in a RAND report on piracy and maritime terrorism.

"Disrupting the mechanics of the global 'just enough, just in time' cargo freight trading system could potentially trigger vast and cascading fiscal effects, especially if the operations of a major commercial port were curtailed," Chalk said.

The Singapore Shipping Association said the navy warning did not preclude possible attacks on other large vessels besides tankers. Singapore's Ministry of Defence declined to comment.

The Malacca Strait has long been infested with pirates, but a terrorist attack has been seen as a more recent threat, possibly from groups affiliated with al Qaeda.

Indonesia said on Wednesday it had detained 13 suspects from a group taking part in an Islamic militant training camp in its province of Aceh, at the northern end of the strait.

A Thai naval attache in Singapore said the original warning came from Japan, which informed the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) that ships in the Strait could be hijacked.

IMB spokesman Noel Choong said it had received the information from a foreign government agency.

"It is a terror threat," Kuala Lumpur-based Choong said when asked whether it was a terror threat or piracy.

The strait is only 1.7 miles wide at its narrowest point, which creates a natural bottleneck and makes it vulnerable to terrorist attack.


An attack by either a terror group or pirates would almost certainly raise insurance costs for shipowners.

But experts saw no immediate impact from the warning.

"At the moment, there is no story for underwriters," Neil Roberts, secretary of the Joint War Committee at Lloyd's Market Association (LMA). "There is no reason to meet at this stage. In the short term, there is no effect. Trade continues as normal."

Middle East crude accounts for 90 percent of Japan's imports, while up to 80 percent of China's oil imports and 30 percent of its iron ore imports pass through the Strait of Malacca.

Any attack could also have a big impact on shipments of some major commodities from Sumatra. The island is a key producer for palm oil, rubber and coffee.

"Are people going to avoid the straits? I would be stunned if they did," said energy consultant John Vautrain of Purvin and Gertz in Singapore. "If you have to take additional security measures, you take them. That is less difficult than by-passing Malacca."

A spokeswoman for Japan's Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd, the country's second-biggest shipping firm, said the warning would not cause it to change operations. "I don't think we would change the route. Basically the area is dangerous, so we have been taking precautions."

Shipping presents a soft target, particularly after global airline security was massively tightened following al Qaeda's use of hijacked planes as flying suicide bombs in its attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in September 2001.

The United States and Japan have pushed for greater involvement in security and patrols in the Strait of Malacca.

Indonesia's Yusgiantoro told Reuters that Indonesia welcomed input from Washington but not direct patrols in the strait, which are currently undertaken by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

The ease with which Somali pirates have been able to board and hijack large vessels -- including an oil supertanker in 2008 -- has also raised concerns of another kind of terrorist attack in which a ship is commandeered and turned into a "floating bomb" that could shut down a major shipping lane or destroy a port.

But analysts say fears that terrorists could detonate ships carrying crude oil or liquefied natural gas (LNG) are overdone. Crude is not very flammable and LNG carriers are robustly constructed and include significant safety features. They might be easy to board, but not to quickly convert into a weapon.

International Cooperation Strengthens CyberSecurity's Role

KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 (Bernama) -- Issues relating to cyber security transcend national boundaries.

Therefore, tackling security issues relating to ICT even within the country calls for international cooperation, noted CyberSecurity Malaysia's Chief Executive Officer Lt Col (B) Husin Jazri.

CyberSecurity Malaysia is an agency under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation entrusted with the task of managing cyber security, including safety in the Internet.

"The culture of sharing information with its counterpart overseas helps to reduce cyber security problems," noted Husin during an interview with Bernama.

Husin pointed out that CyberSecurity Malaysia has established cooperation with 71 nations including within the Asia Pacific region and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC).

CyberSecurity Malaysia has been appointed as the chairman of the OIC's Computer Emergency Response Team, and the committee member for Asia-Pacific Computer Response Team.

"The international cooperation denotes one of CyberSecurity Malaysia's successes, and our role at the international stage is something to be proud off," stated Husin.

CyberSecurity Malaysia exchanges information with its foreign counterparts on cyber threats and learns of their strategies in enhancing cyber security.

By adopting international best practices, for example in digital forensics with the cooperation of South Korea, CyberSecurity Malaysia has extended its network.

CyberSecurity also conforms to international standards in carrying out studies at the international stage, said Husin.

In January this year, CyberSecurity Malaysia collaborated with the Asia Pacific Computer Emergency Response Team (APCERT) in an annual drill to test the response capability of leading Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRT) from Asia-Pacific economies. The cyber drill exercise saw the participation of 16 teams from 14 economies; namely Australia, Brunei, China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

Also in January, CyberSecurity Malaysia inked a MoU with Morocco's Post, Telecommunication and New Technology Department whereby both parties agreed to cooperate in protecting the critical information infrastructure, developing cyber security cooperation framework, develop competencies, conduct training and create awareness.

According to Husin, international platforms like the European Cyber Crime Convention provides an avenue to debate on cyber crimes.

"Taking part or organising international conference, workshop or seminar is the best option for CyberSecurity Malaysia to update knowledge in current issues of the cyber world," added Husin.

For example, on Feb 8 and 9 CyberSecurity Malaysia organised the Information Security Professionals Network Forum in Kuala Lumpur with international participants.

According to Husin, professionals from United Kingdom were invited to share their knowledge on tools, trends, laws and strategies on cyber security issues with cyber professionals in Malaysia.


CyberSecurity Malaysia acts as the technical agency conducting analysis and activities to protect the nation's cyberspace especially in terms of technology and expertise.

For example, when the authorities need the advanced technical systems to analyze digital evidence, CyberSecurity Malaysia plays a role in helping out.

CyberSecurity Malaysia also holds activities and training programmes for Critical National Infrastructure to enhance the security of IT systems in the public and private sector.

In carrying out its responsibility CyberSecurity Malaysia has to face various challenges, noted Husin.

"This includes the difficulties in collecting evidence from overseas, that is time consuming and calls for the evaluation of the host nation," he said.

According to Husin the capabilities of Malaysian enforcement agencies in prosecuting cyber crimes has improved.

"Technical assistance from CyberSecurity helps enforcement," noted Husin.


CyberSecurity Malaysia plays a vital role in establishing a safe and conducive cyber environment to help boost economic growth.

The Implementation of the National Cyber Security Policy, for example, directly and indirectly helps to change the ICT environment to a more positive one.

"The cooperation between the public and private sector in tackling cyber issues help generate economic activities. For example the local ICT industry develops software and hardware in coming up with applications like biometric access, MyKad reader, chip and other applications," said Husin.

As an agency established by the government, CyberSecurity Malaysia is financed by the government to assist the industry in enhancing the quality of ICT products with security features.

"CyberSecurity Malaysia provides the quality seal and recognition for the security features for businesses and industry to help enhance quality and add value to products and services that they provide overseas.

"Therefore local hardware and software developers have the opportunity to sell the products overseas with their security features guaranteed," he said.

According to Husin, at present CyberSecurity Malaysia has established cooperation with 17 foreign nations in providing benefits to entrepreneurs and consumers by recognizing products of quality based on ICT.


CyberSecurity Malaysia's biggest achievement according to Husin is ensuring the security and well-being of the cyber realm, that not only benefits Malaysians but also Internet users worldwide.

"Through international cooperation, Malaysia could seek strategic partners overseas in the event foreign hackers threaten the nation and vice-versa," he said.

The latest, CyberSecurity Malaysia's contribution at the international stage also covers free information at its website . The site provides tips on how to surf the Internet safely.

According to Husin, the public could also forward complaints and receive information on the latest cyber threats at the CyberSecurity Malaysia's web site ( or call the Cyber999 helpline that operates 24 hours daily at or call 1-300-88-2999.