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Singapore boosts security with tech

A worker at Changi Airport in Singapore demonstrates the new biometrics system.
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Technology (general)

SINGAPORE (CNN) -- From monitoring its hazardous waste to keeping track of all computer activity, Singapore is one of the most security-conscious places in the world.

Amid concerns that it could be a target for Islamic terror groups such as the Jemaah Islamiyah, the prosperous south-east Asian city-state has launched its own war against terrorism -- a war largely driven by technology.

Densely populated Singapore is home to 4.6 million people. Its skyscrapers house multinational companies and its ports and shipping lanes handle a quarter of global trade.

Deputy prime minister and defense minister Tony Tan told CNN that terrorism was an ongoing threat for Singapore, and he has turned to tech to beef up security.

"As a small nation, in Singapore particularly, we try to leverage our technology as much as possible. Technology multiplies our capabilities," he said.

All Singaporeans will soon be scanned before leaving the country and from October, Singapore will begin issuing biometric passports chipped with holders' facial details.

The government is also strengthening its virtual borders with plans to create a cyber-threat monitoring center.

More than half of all Singaporeans have access to the Internet, which means high exposure to hackers and cyber-criminals. To counter this, all computer activity is monitored.

"You have to try to get yourself into the mind of terrorists: 'How can I attack a country like Singapore?' 'They've hardened their borders -- difficult to smuggle people and bombs in.' 'They've protected their vehicles, they've protected their ports. What is their vulnerable part? Possibly their computer systems,'" Tan told CNN.

And it is not just people and computer traffic that is being watched -- trucks carrying hazardous waste are all monitored.

Five hundred trucks carrying hazardous waste are fitted with vehicle-tracking devices in their dashboards. These are linked to a Civil Defense bunker, three stories under ground level.

There, government officers monitor and control the movements of all vehicles containing hazardous materials to prevent them from being used as weapons of terror.

If the trucks go off their set course, the horn sounds, hazard lights are activated and eventually, the truck will come to a standstill.

The system has been developed by U.S.-listed firm Astrata.

Astrata managing director Sandy Borthwick told CNN that demand for his company's tracking technology was increasing.

"To date, we have manufactured and shipped 80,000 of these devices, and we'll manufacture and ship another 40,000 this year," he said.

"If you look at Singapore, it's got a highly populated, small, contained space. A lot of hazardous vehicles driving around. The Singapore Government recognizes that while there may not be an actual terrorist act, it's too much of a risk to take," Borthwick said.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout contributed to this report

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