Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays To All!

I'll be gone for Christmas!
Could not find any better Family Guy videos ( which haven't been removed for copyright reasons).
See ya all next year!
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

WI-FI Theft: Any punishment for abetting the crime?

Pre-sentence report for youth who tapped on wireless internet illegally

By David Teo/Noor Mohd Aziz, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 19 December 2006 2017 hrs

SINGAPORE: A 17-year-old, charged with illegally hopping onto another's wireless internet connection, will have to wait a little longer to know his fate.

This is the first such case to go to the courts in Singapore.

A district court judge has called for a pre-sentence report on Garyl Tan Jia Luo, who has pleaded guilty to using his laptop to gain unauthorised access to a home wireless network.

Details that came out of court say that early on 13th May, Tan was "bored" and wanted to access the internet but his mother had locked up the cable modem.

He left home with his laptop, and went in search of an unprotected internet connection in his neighbourhood which he found outside 6 and 7, Casuarina Walk.

A man who spotted him surfing illegally on the kerb side questioned him, and called the police.

In mitigation, Tan was remorseful and said he did not know it was an offence.

He was a first-year student at Republic Polytechnic and had dropped out of the course, said his lawyer.

The pre-sentence report will be heard on the 16th January. - CNA/so

Dear friends,

Correct me if I am wrong.

Wasn’t Gary extremely resourceful? His mum punished him by taking away his internet connection and he went out and did what any one would have done. He walked around and found an unsecured wireless access.

Unless I am mistaken, he did not use fraud to break into the network. He did not crack the password to hack into the system.

I have wireless connections in my house. And it is UNSECURED. ( I won’t tell you the address).

I expect that once in a while, my neigbours might be using my bandwidths with my compliments. But I don’t make a fuss about it. If I did not want to share my bandwidth, I would have password-secured it!

Is it not like this scenario?: A man keeps the front door of his house open, and through this door daily flies out wads and wads of dollar notes for no conceivable reason. The man makes no attempt to close the door and his neighbours had been walking past to pick up the notes from day One.

On the 2,345th day, Gary walks by and picks up a two-dollar note. Some nosy guy then stops him and calls the police. Gary gets to see the judge and then gets the slammer?

The person who let the dollar notes out for the previous 2344 day is not guilty of abetting this "hideous" crime ?

What’s happening?

No wonder, JBJ says ,” The Law is an ASS”

Lawyers please enlighten me. I am confused.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

1st Addendum from an Infosec professional ( Capella)

Cappella said...

I am not a lawyer, but a InfoSec Professional.

WiFi, otherwise known as IEEE 802.11, was DESIGNED to have OPEN access. They put in security is so as to RESTRICT unauthorised people from accessing it. Look at the IEEE specs to understand the intentions of the people who design the specification.

If the owner of the Wifi does not secure their network, by IEEE 802.11 standard, it means you give consent for people to access it. In Wifi, the onus is for the owner to secure it.

I think the law has gone TOO FAR in finding a scapegoat. They probably think Wifi is just like a normal Internet connection where accessing it illegally is a crime. The law-enforcers never know that Wifi was meant to be shared openly in the first place, with security implemented if you want to have restricted access. HAIZ!
1:21 PM

Latest addendum from Capella (22.12.06 11.42am) "Wireless 101 Class"

Cappella said...

Dr Huang, thanks for quoting me in verbatim in the ST Forum. All of a sudden my friends start calling me and said I am in ST Forum!??! :P

Anyway everyone, I shall conduct a Wireless 101 lesson here. Short and brief, to explain why what the law thinks has nothing to do with the way this technology was designed.

IEEE 802.11 clearly states that it already does not have the security and privacy of a wired network. Why so? Wired network is secure for the fact that you need to PHYSICALLY be connected to the network to be secure. For wireless, as it uses air as a broadcast medium, there is simply no way to control how the radio waves reach the intended client.

Because of this, they have implemented an authentication mechanism to help the implementors of wireless network to secure their networks. Now, what makes the whole thing damn confusing BACK THEN was that there was two kinds of authentication mechanism: Open System and Shared Key. According to IEEE 802.11 standard Page 59 Section 8.1.1, "Open System authentication is the default authentication algorithm." Now, in case you think it is anything special, Open System authentication is not even a secure form of authentication, all it requires from the client is to specify the correct SSID, and you are in.

You may think, hey, that is not secure at all. Yes and no. If today the Wireless@SG network access uses a different unique SSID for every single access point, the users will feel extremely frustrated as they roam from one wireless network to another (EBSS mode), because they have to change their SSID constantly. So, by using this default authentication mechanism, users can be assured that they are connected to the very same "GROUP" of wireless network. The problem here lies in the fact that the people who design the standard never expect that one day the SSID "linksys" actually can be implemented by 100 people staying near the same block, but are actually not related to one another.

Because of this, IEEE 802.11 also provides provision for the secure implementation of password security, which most of you probably have heard terms like WEP, WPA, WPA2. On top of that, high end wireless routers implement 802.1x, which authenticates by each individual wireless client. Most also implement stuff like MAC address authentication (which is pretty easy to break anyway). All in all, there are features to help the implementor of access point to secure their wireless network, but they HAVE TO ENABLE IT. Out of the box, if you look at all the access points available in the market, NONE has security enabled. The maker of the wireless product DOES NOT KNOW how is it being used. That is why I have said earlier, the onus is for the owner to enable it if they do not want people to use their wireless network. Otherwise, it is implicitly taken that you intend to share out your wireless network.

That is why in the last 1 to 2 years, most wireless routers vendors tend to put additional text or information about securing the wireless network for these people who are technically illiterate to make them aware about this issue. So for these people, even after reading these text, they still think they do not want to go through the hassle of enabling it, then again, you are implicitly allowing people to access, since you have been warned to secure it but you did not.

The law in Singapore has sided too much on the clueless. It is time to throw the responsibility back on these clueless and make them take responsibility for it. Just as you will not let someone who has no driving licence to drive a car, you will also expect that the user of a wireless access point should have some technical competency to secure it. I for one will be peeved if I found out that someone's wireless network has been taken control of by a malicious user attacking my PC. Yes, the malicious user is to be faulted, but the owner of the wireless network should never have provide that chance for the malicious user to hijack their network to attack my PC in the first place.

So all in all, I support the view of Dr Huang and others that this whole this is nothing but a mere scapegoat catching exercise. :P

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Self-regulation of Singapore Blogosphere- Whatever for??

Dear Friends,

Although I have great admiration for people like Yadav, Bernard Leong,Aaron and Gerald, I must come out to confess that I am totally against the idea of self-regulation to our blogosphere.

The blogosphere as we know it now, is the last bastion of truly free expression.

What was there before there was blog?

What did we have before the internet gave all of us this precious gift?

Granted, the MSM-MainStream Media (or their masters) have loosened their grip and are allowing more divergent views to be published in their forum pages. But the MSM is still firmly and totally controlled by the government.

The views of the government on the functions of the media are well known. When push come to shove, one of the government leaders would invariably mouth something like,” We will not let the editors/journalists/media etc… set the agenda”-ad nauseum.

Our MSM ain't no Fourth Estate

The MSM in Singapore is never going to be the “Fourth Estate” as is the case in the western democracies.

The “Fourth Estate’s” coinage has been attributed to Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797), a British politician. It comes from a quote in Thomas Carlyle's book, "Heros and Hero Worship in History" (1841).

"Burke said that there were three Estates in Parliament, but in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sat a fourth Estate more important far than they all."

The three estates in the above quote referred to the British parliament,( the Lords Temporal, the Lords Spiritual and the Commons). The Lords Temporal and the Lords Spiritual combined being The House of Lords, the upper House of parliament. And the Commons is The House of Commons or the British lower House.

Singapore’s MSM is not there to be a watchdog; a check and balance of the government’s abuse of power. If Woodward and Bernstein were journalists in Singapore, they would not be heroes. Very likely, they would have been detained under the Internal Security’s Act if they had tried to publish details of the happenings at the Watergate hotel on that fateful day in June 1972.

We have the Speaker’s Corner, I hear you say. You have to register at the police station next to Hong Lim Square and you also cannot use any form of amplification!

If you try a “Chee Soon Juan” and as much as walk together in larger than a group of four’s, you will share the same fate and ignominy as him. I do admire CSJ’s guts.

That leaves us precious little left.

We can just take it ( like most Singaporeans have done in the past) or leave it ( as many more have done in the present).

Or we can blog…

The “gahmen” has seemingly turned a blind eye to Singapore’s nascent blogosphere. The IDA or the police may actually visit to read the contents ( they do, I assure you) but unless one is so stupid as to write defamatory stuff about certain families and characters, or worse incite racial or religious hatred ( which I am vehemently against-incitement of hatred that is), then for godknowswhatreason, they have let us be.

Perhaps they want us to let off some steam (words in cyberspace are infinitely better than a revolution downtown) , or maybe they want to know what these “radical intellectual-types” actually feel? or maybe they are really closet liberals waiting to come out (ok just joking). I don’t know and I don’t care.

So why oh why?

We have the freedom now. So, why do we want to self-regulate? Have we been so used to being a subjugated people that when freedom has been thrust upon us, we tell them, “No, please we don’t deserve freedom” ( Xenoboy talk the most sense of us all here).

History repeating itself?

Back in the early days of Singapore’s internet, we had soc.culture.singapore which was a newsgroup.It was like the present Sammyboy’s internet forum.

When some (intellectual-types) advocated that we self-regulate ( or they called it “moderation”) I was adamantly opposed to it.

I was amongst a minority who voiced out vociferously against this. However,the majority went ahead to form "moderated.soc.culture.singapore".

You guessed it. It died a quick death. Uncelebrated-no funeral.

None of you even knew such a newsgroup existed. You know whatimean?

So, I say what I said then, “NO!


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways

Hi Friends,

I believe the government is sincere in wanting to prove to Singaporeans that they are valued more than foreigners (PR’s included) for one simple reason.

They sincerely covet your votes every 5 years!

Hence I was adamant that it is a step in the right direction to provide preferential treatment for Singaporeans in healthcare and education.

However, a typical response was like “anonymous” who said,

I feel that there is another angle to look at the issue. Why must we make citizens special by "punishing" PRs in the form of increasing their fees/ reducing their subsidies? Why cant we differentiate citiznes by INCREASING the benefits of citizens, and leaving the PRs untouched? that way, the PRs wont feel too miffed, and there will also be enhanced benefits of becoming a citizen

So, back to the title of this post (which is from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Sonnets from the Portuguese”. (Can anyone tell me more about this lovely poem?)

What can the government say or do that will convince skeptics like you and myself that it is sincere in “loving us”- sounds so lovey dovey ( ha ha)?

This brings me even further back to my obsession about National Service. Why does it obsess me so much, you ask? It affected my life and the lives of at least half our citizenry directly (and the other half indirectly). It will continue to affect the careers and lives of male Singaporeans annually till they get sick of complaining about it ( which is about 10 years).

We have been conditioned to believe that to do National Service before working or going to Uni is as natural as going to the loo after waking up.

So, since National Service is a patriotic act (or should I say sacrifice) , that only male Singaporeans have the privilege ( ahem ala muffled cough) to participate in, it would be a natural place to start with. (BTW, how is it that permanent residents have to serve in the army of a nation which is not theirs?) Strange.

As Mr. Wang had already very succinctly dealt with this topic in his two posts entitled, Rethinking NS (Part 1) , and Rethinking NS (Part 2), I will not reinvent the wheel.

Please just read these landmark posts on National Service and also do not miss the many gems amongst the 118 comments (wow!) in Part 1 and 52 comments in Part 2.

For a gist of the comments, just sample what Mr. Wang himself said in the comment section, “

Some of my brainstormed ideas which I am still thinking about include

(1) pegging NSFs salaries to market rates of what they could earn outside (eg fresh poly grad's salary);

(2) allowing NSFs to indicate preference for particular vocations (subject of course to SAF operational requirements);

(3) MINDEF pays for life and medical insurance and the cover continues every year until the serviceman is no longer called up for ICT, then he has option to discontinue or continue using his own money;

(4) SMU, NUS, NTU etc to be pushed to consider NS experience as a positive factor in university admission (since sports, music and other CCA are already being considered in the university admissions exercise);

(5) increased income tax rebates for NSmen;

(6) priority admission to primary schools for children of male Singaporean citizens who have done NS (as opposed to once-foreign male Singapore citizens who have not);

(7) exemption from ICT for NSmen who father two children;

(8) assorted little benefits like MINDEF subsidising fees for NSmen who want to join gyms / fitness club;

(9) reworkings of SAF vocational training especially for poorly-educated NSFs such that SAF vocational training can be converted into useful working skills;

(10) option to do university before full-time NS, for selected courses where knowledge gained during studies could be useful in the SAF (like currently for doctors);

(11) essentially, priority in the allocation of various public resources for citizens who have served NS - eg in balloting for COEs; application for HDB flats;

(12) NS defence tax as mentioned by some others earlier; (13) list goes on ....."

Now you know why lawyers make much better politicians than doctors!

I hope policy makers get to read what’s on Mr. Wang’s blogs.

Make NS a worthwhile experience ( or at least a less worthless one). Ensure that it does not become a liability to the life of the average Singaporean. ( I dare not hope that it be an asset)

I will count the other ways that "How do thou love me" another time.


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Links: Yawning Bread's How to treat citizens better than foreigners

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Preferential treatment for Singaporeans in Singapore

Health and education ministries reviewing fees for PRs and foreigners

By Farah Abdul Rahim, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 03 December 2006 1918 hrs

SINGAPORE: Singapore citizens will always come first, before Permanent Residents and non-citizens, says Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

That is why the health and education ministries are now working on changes to reduce fee subsidies for non-citizens, so that foreigners do not enjoy the same benefits as Singaporeans.

The next offset package for the GST increase will be for Singaporeans only, just like the Progress Package earlier this year, said Prime Minister Lee.

This is because the Government's responsibility is to Singaporeans first, although Permanent Residents and foreign workers will remain priorities.

"While we have non-citizens here, citizens always come first. We have to treat them as the best, we have to treat visitors well too but citizens have to be treated better," Mr Lee said.

"Right now, PRs enjoy the same subsidies as Singaporeans for education and healthcare, and in fact in healthcare, foreign workers also receive subsidised treatment. I think we should make a clear difference – PRs should pay more than Singaporeans but less than other foreigners, there is a distinction.

"If you are not a PR and not a citizen, you should be given good treatment but we will not give you special privileges." (Read on...)

Hospital subsidies for PRs to be revised from Oct 2007

SINGAPORE: Healthcare subsidies for permanent residents at Singapore's restructured hospitals and national centres will be revised from October next year.

This is to provide a clear distinction in health benefits between Singapore citizens, PRs and others, including foreign workers.

Singaporeans will always come first. (read on...)

Give foreign talent equal dues
Why treat overseas employees differently?

Letter from Robyn M Speed (Today 6th Dec 06)

I refer to the report, "Permanent Residents debate price of citizenship", (Dec 5).
One might argue that Singapore citizens in other countries should not be entitled to the same benefits as the citizens of those countries. It is only fair that they pay full health costs and pay more for education.
If they want the same treatment as citizens, they should take up citizenship in that country.
It should not matter if Singaporeans have been living in Australia, New Zealand, or the United States for a decade or more — they should not get the same rights as the citizens. They should expect to pay more.
It is only fair. Right?
I bet you would say no; that if you do the work, you should get fair and equal treatment. Yet, that is what Singapore wants to do to foreigners here.
You want the top professionals in the world to come and work here, to build Singapore as the top research place in the world, the top education hub. Yet you want to hold them distant, to treat them as second to the locals.
Surely these foreigners are working for Singapore and her citizens, to build your country and economy, to add to your markets and prestige. (Read on...)

My Comments:

Dear Friends,

Many of us often complain that the government seems to value foreigners (including Permanent Residents) more than its own citizens.

The main grouse among some Singaporeans was that non-citizens were receiving similar benefits without needing to fulfil obligations such as National Service. In fact, there were allegations that male Singaporeans were discriminated against in job selections as employers would shun them in view of their annual In-Camp Training national service liabilities.

The past week’s announcement of policy changes to better differentiate the benefits accorded to citizens vis-à-vis foreigners comes as no surprise.

When we travel to any other country, we would not bat an eyelid if we knew that their citizens got preferential treatment in schools and hospitals. It is a given and a non-issue.

Resources are not unlimited. Money (in the form of subsidy) given to Peter, is money taken away from Paul. Simplistically speaking, it is a zero-sum game.

I am not ignoring the contributions and value-add to the economy from non-citizens. I readily acknowledge that Singapore’s economic pie had enlarged due in no small part to non-citizens making their living here.

There will be those like Mr. Robyn M Speed who feel that this discriminatory policy will make expatriates feel unwelcome and he even warned“ And beware, for there are always other markets for these people to go to” .

I am not worried about people like Mr. Speed.

He, and those in his shoes, have made conscious, calculated decisions before coming to work here. They have decided that on the balance of things, working in Singapore is good for them and their families. I am certain that those here with purely altruistic motives are a small minority. For Singapore and these expatriates, it is a win-win situation.

In any case, if these expatriates had wanted the exact same benefits as Singaporeans, it would be a mere formality of applying for the red passport and I am sure the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority would readily oblige.

I am more concerned about the other foreigners who do not have much chance of getting Singapore citizenship even if they applied. These are foreign workers like maids and other menial workers. Most have low wages and may not be able to afford unsubsidized healthcare services.

Unless health insurance for them becomes compulsory in their employment contracts, these workers may not seek medical help until it is too late. Health insurance would of course add to their employment costs.

Well, economists have warned us that there is “no free lunch”.

This policy shift is a step in the right direction and I am not afraid to say so.

Now, about National Service...


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Links to this debate:PRs debate price of citizenship Bigger is better

Friday, December 01, 2006

New Medico-legal framework helps us avoid pitfalls of Defensive Medicine

New resolution framework allows early settlement of medical negligence cases

By Dominique Loh, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 29 November 2006 2036 hrs

SINGAPORE: Starting next year, patients will have another avenue to seek resolution in a medical negligence case.

The new framework gets patients to talk to their doctors early, so they can settle a case before it goes to trial, which translates to huge savings in legal costs.

The number of medical negligence cases in Singapore is considered relatively small with an average of about eight to nine cases a year. 97 percent of these cases are settled before they go to trial.

In 2003, there was a peak of 20 cases but 94 percent of the cases never went to trial.

Last year, 87 percent of the 11 cases were settled out of court.

In the first ten months of this year, five cases were reported with one settled while the others are still in the early stages.

This has not stopped the courts from pre-empting court cases through this new protocol which starts in January.

Before even going to court, patients or their relatives will be required to talk to their doctors to seek explanations.

This means both parties communicate early so claims are more likely to be settled.

Such a system will also discourage frivolous or cases without merit. Lawyers say such cases could have racked up legal fees in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Toh Han Li, Registrar at the Subordinate Courts, says: "What has happened in the University of Michigan healthcare system is that they've instituted a programme to be more open and communicative by giving more information and talking with the patients.

"As a result of this programme, the number of lawsuits dropped by half in one year and there was a great deal of savings in legal costs. The number of lawsuits dropped from 261 in one year to 114 and there was savings of, I think, a few million US dollars as well in legal costs."

Dr Lee Chien Earn, Health Performance Group at the Ministry of Health, says: "I think what it will do is it will help serve as an additional avenue for patients and healthcare institutions, providers and doctors to communicate and to better understand each other's position.

"I think doctors would be supportive of this because it gives them an opportunity to explain their decisions and to explain what has happened. Both parties come from different perspective. It's when you bring them together that they start to understand what the underlying concerns are."

This framework complements existing dispute resolution systems that are already available in Singapore's healthcare institutions. - CNA/so

My comments:

Hi friends,

I will keep my comments brief and to the point as I do not have the luxury of time (I got an exams tomorrow).

Let me say that I am extremely proud to be a member of Singapore’s medical fraternity. Notwithstanding some “black sheep”, I can truthfully say- hand to heart, that our doctors are well-trained and sincere and do try their utmost to help their patients.

My praise is not just accorded to doctors in the private sector but also to government-employed doctors.

However, despite good intentions, the result of any treatment (surgical or not) may not meet the patient’s expectations. Even in the best of hands, complications may not be avoidable.

The new proposed structure is beneficial for our society as it reduces unnecessary lawsuits.

When we go down the route of excessive litigations, the end result would be more expensive medical expenses as we doctors would be forced to practise ”defensive medicine”. I am not ignoring the fact that with the threat of lawsuits, doctors no longer think of themselves as demi-gods not answerable to anyone. They have become more responsive to the needs of patients and give fuller explanations to patients and do get “informed consent” before any procedures) etc.

However my humble opinion (albeit skewed as I am an interested party), is that the net result is healthy (no pun intended).

If the sole aim in my practice is the avoidance of litigation (and hence adverse publicity), I would have to scan every brain ( I mean patient’s brain) that walks into my consultation room complaining of anything remotely connected to the part of the anatomy between the 2 ears.

But seriously, does everyone with a headache or giddiness need an expensive MRI Brain Scan? The answer is “Yes” if you practise in New York or LA.

I am not advocating a cavalier or irresponsible practice of medicine. The doctor-patient relationship which is based on trust and rapport needs the support of our community and society.

Doctors are human too. We empathise with our patients’ financial hardships and hence, I do find myself saying to my patients thus, “ Although your giddiness theoretically can be due to a small vestibular nerve neuroma, which is detectable in its early stage only with an MRI Brain, the chance of this is small (if it is indeed small). ” I do add the caveat that “if you want 100% certainty” ( or in other words- cost is not a concern), I will arrange for the Scan straight away, now, stat, pronto etc.

But, “if you trust me “( or trust that I am trying to help you without spending money unless really required), - not that you don’t trust me if you want to do the MRI Brain anyway, we (patient and I) will find a cure for your ailments in the most common sensical way.

However, if at the end of the day, some sub-optimal outcome occurs, and the patient is not convinced that the “complication from surgery” (or delay in diagnosis) is unavoidable, then let us talk about it. And try to sort out any issues before resorting to any legal process which will cost the whole of society a lot of money. Of course, some lawyers will bring home more bacon for the table but let’s not digress.

I am still trying to grapple with the impact of this new arrangement.

The jury is still out (in our doctors’ tearoom) whether this will make the practice of medicine closer to what good ole’ Hippocrates meant it to be.

The bottomline is:
Docs are humans too. We do try our damnest. Can’t we just talk about it when things don’t work out?


Dr. Huang Shoou Chyuan