Istana site hacker gets 12 months' probation

Istana site hacker gets 12 months' probation
Melvin Teo Boon Wei, an Institute of Technical Education (ITE) student, leaving the State Courts on 4 August 2014.

The student who hacked into the Istana website last year has been given a shot at rehabilitation by a district judge.

Judge Lim Keng Yeow also advised the 18-year-old to apply his IT know-how to his studies - not to doing wrong.

Those comments were made yesterday when Melvin Teo Boon Wei was sentenced to 12 months' probation after he was found guilty of computer hacking.

"Use them for the good of other people rather than for harm. Use them to promote the well-being of other people rather than to act in mischief," said Judge Lim.

The Institute of Technical Education student is the second person to be convicted of unauthorised use of a computer service by hacking into a government website.

Delson Moo Hiang Kng, 43, was fined $8,000 two months ago for a similar cross-site scripting (XSS) attack on the Istana website last year.

Teo, a first-year electronics student, had admitted to one of four charges with the rest taken into consideration.

An XSS attack, one of the most common types of cyber attacks, "injects" a script into the Web application by exploiting a security vulnerability.

In this case, the application involved the Google search page embedded in the Istana website.

The court heard that while Teo's act caused no damage to the contents of the Istana Web server, the website operator and potential users were inconvenienced.

Judge Lim said the courts took a very serious view of any form of cyber intrusion or attacks that threatened cyber security.

"Even acts of lesser proportions are deplorable and unacceptable. They rightly draw public disapproval and should be expected to result in substantial sentences in court," he said.

This case involved "an act of immaturity and an act of wanton mischief", the judge said, but he added that there were no other serious consequences except for the disabling of the website's search functions for a few days.

He also noted that Teo has a history of good conduct at school and has good family support.

Under the probation order, Teo has to perform 80 hours of community service and remain indoors from 10pm to 6am.

His parents are also bonded for $5,000 to ensure his good behaviour.

This article was published on Aug 5 in The Straits Times.

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