Hacktivism arrived in Singapore 12 days ago in the form of someone named "the Messiah", who claimed to be a member of global cyber activism group Anonymous. He threatened to unleash a legion of hackers on the country and its infrastructure if the Government did not revoke its licensing regime for news websites. Should Singaporeans be afraid?
ON OCT 29, as ordinary Singaporeans went about their Tuesday, political protest took an unexpected turn.
This day marked the arrival of the hacktivist in Singapore - a new breed of protester who hacks into online sites to make a point. And that day, the Singapore Government was his declared target.
In a blurry YouTube video, a masked man threatened chaos on the country and its infrastructure if the licensing regime for news websites, instituted in June, was not lifted.
Identifying himself as a part of cyber activism group Anonymous, he declared: "For every single time you deprive a citizen his right to information, we will cost you financial loss by aggressive cyber-intrusion."
What preceded and followed the video message were defacements of several websites, from that of the Ang Mo Kio Town Council to The Straits Times' blog section, by a hacker calling himself "the Messiah".
Last Saturday, when several government websites went down for several hours, some Singaporeans wondered if it was the start of the threatened chaos.
Communications consultant Priscilla Wong, 36, says: "My first thought was, Could this be 'the Messiah' carrying out his threats?" But the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore, the local sector regulator, told the media that it was not a case of hacking, but of scheduled maintenance that took longer than expected due to technical glitches.
Then, on Wednesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the authorities would spare no effort in finding the hackers, and that they would be dealt with severely.
Two days later, a page on both the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and the Istana websites were hacked in retaliation.
This move took the hostilities to a new level, say observers.