Man jailed for cyber attack on PMO website

Man jailed for cyber attack on PMO website

In a defiant response to a government warning to deal with people threatening attacks on Singapore's cyber infrastructure, a hacking enthusiast tested his skills on the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) website.

Mohammad Azhar Tahir, 28, was sentenced yesterday to two months' jail, for entering unauthorised computer code into the site on Nov 7 last year.

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But the jobless man's total term comes to six months, after including punishment for related computer misuse offences.

These included mooching off a neighbour's wireless Internet service, and modifying social media and e-mail accounts that belonged to Ah Boys To Men actor Muhammad Ridhwan Azman, 21.

Mohammad Azhar had targeted the PMO website after hearing about the warning, issued by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong about a week after someone claiming links with international "hacktivist" group Anonymous threatened to hit out at Singapore's computer networks.

Instead of proper search terms, Mohammad Azhar entered HTML code into a Google bar embedded in the PMO site. This created a modified copy of the page that referenced Anonymous. Internet users who clicked on a link for the page, which he posted on various social media websites, would see a Guy Fawkes mask and two messages instead of the actual search page. The messages were: "It's great to be Singaporean today" and "ANONYMOUS SG WAS HERE BIATCH".

The actor's social media accounts were tampered with to circulate the script and also make it seem he had been targeted by Anonymous.

Deputy Public Prosecutor April Phang said Mohammad Azhar's acts were a "direct and defiant response" to Mr Lee.

His dissemination of the script spread a false impression that the PMO Web server had been breached, and the site defaced.

His acts "inspired" copycat offences by two others against the Istana website, DPP Phang added. For their intrusions, Delson Moo Hiang Kng, 43, was fined $8,000, while 18-year-old Melvin Teo Boon Wei was placed on a year's probation.

Defence counsel Ferlin Jayatissa said his client had hatched the "misguided" scheme as a "prank" to teach a lesson to the actor, who had been in a dispute with Mohammad Azhar's brother.

The brother, Mohammad Asyiq Tahir, 22, was also dealt with yesterday for computer misuse. The national serviceman was placed on 18 months' probation after pleading guilty to five of 11 offences, none of which concerned the PMO website server.

For each proceeded count of computer misuse, Mohammad Azhar could have been jailed for up to three years and fined up to $10,000.

pohian@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on December 9, 2014.
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