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Malaysia defends subsidy-linked database even as millions shun it over hacking fears

A total of 11.6 million Malaysians aged 18 and older had signed up for the new central database (PADU) by the deadline on Sunday night, Economy Minister Rafizi Ramli said in a statement on Monday.

The figure was just over half the 22 million adult Malaysians targeted by the new database — one of the various efforts by Anwar’s administration to reform government spending and trim its budget deficit to 4.3 per cent of gross domestic product, from 5 per cent last year.

“The economy ministry will proceed to present its planning for targeted subsidies to Cabinet in April,” said Rafizi, who declared the PADU rollout a “success”.

Local media outlets on Sunday ran splashes on their websites and social media of long queues at physical kiosks nationwide as Malaysians rushed to sign up with the database before the deadline.

Still, many appeared to have shunned PADU over fears hackers could target a new database of key details — from personal identification numbers to addresses and education level — of virtually all Malaysians.

“We registered our father because we worry he may not get welfare aid,” housewife Christine Chin told This Week in Asia.

“But honestly, I don’t know what [PADU] is for,” the 46-year-old mother of four added.

Critics say the government is asking for too much granular data — including personal bank account numbers and even lottery winnings — without providing any evidence that it has developed data security robust enough to keep hackers and scammers at bay.

Earlier last week, Sarawak’s state government ordered the suspension of PADU registration in the state, pending an in-depth briefing by Rafizi sometime this week.

“If extensive information is disclosed without relevance to financial matters … we see no justification