It's an attack on you

This is addressed to You, the silent majority online who do little when netizens break laws.

Offline, it's a different story. When Jemaah Islamiah's plans to attack infrastructure here were exposed in 2001, you reacted with disgust and concern.

But you are dismissive of online criminality. When a hacker, named "The Messiah", loudly proclaimed his intention to launch a cyberattack against the Government, you said little.

The few, including former journalist Bertha Henson on website Breakfast Network, and a writer on The Real Singapore portal, criticised the hacker's proclamations.

Others either distanced themselves from him without condemning his intentions and worse, on socio-political website TR Emeritus, egged him on and even thanked him for having the gumption to do it.

You, the silent majority, think it's not your business.

You might even believe "The Messiah" and criminals like him should play judge, jury and executioner because the Government has failed to meet your needs.

You might be tempted to believe he's attacking the Singapore Government, not Singapore. That's naive.

This is him attacking you.

Last month, software company Adobe Systems was hacked and information relating to millions of customers, including encrypted credit or debit card numbers, were stolen.

Your credit card details.

A month earlier, in Israel, criminals launched a cyberattack and immobilised a major road network, disabling key operations for two days, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

That's you, in a traffic jam.

An attack on infrastructure here slows down services and shakes confidence. More than 90 per cent of government-related services are available online and computer ownership and smartphone penetration are close to 100 per cent.

You live online. A cyberattack on the Government infrastructure is an attack on your way of life.

So what can you do? The first step is easy - don't encourage criminality.

When netizens launch personal attacks, don't "Like" or forward the postings. Criminal defamation is a real crime.

When vitriol dominates and online vigilantes turn into a mob that targets individuals, be the voice of calm.

In September, two US teenagers tormented a 12-year-old online until she jumped to her death. Both have since been arrested and charged.

Next, support tough action against criminality. Crime taking place online is still crime, not anti-social behaviour.

But others need to voice their disapproval too. Law enforcement agencies must also send a signal loud and clear.

The self-claimed "Messiah" had hacked into the City Harvest Church website in September. A police report was made, but there was no word on the action taken.

Subsequent police reports were made when he continued his attacks on other sites. It is unclear if any action has been taken.

In the past, police action was swift and tough. In 2005, the Sedition Act was used against two young bloggers who were subsequently jailed for comments they made about Muslims.

In 2008, blogger and former Singaporean Gopalan Nair was jailed for "threatening, abusing or insulting a public servant".

Now it's largely police warnings, with one exception last year. In a first, a former engineer was jailed two months for an online posting inciting violence on National Day.

If you mollycoddle online criminality, people like "The Messiah" will grow bolder and more defiant.

Show him, if he hacks, he will get whacked.

Share your views with Melvin atmelvin@sph.com.sg

What is the Anonymous network?

1. Anonymous is an international network of cyberactivists who claim to have hacked into organisations such as the Church of Scientology and electronics giant Sony.

2. The network has also taken down the sites of several US government agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to protest against the shutdown of file-sharing site Megaupload.

3. It is a group without a central structure, meaning it has no leaders or core members. Members could be anyone.

4. It originated in 2003 from the website 4chan, an image forum where people can share pictures anonymously. Anonymous made it to No. 36 on Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People list in 2012.

5. A hacker who goes by the name "The Messiah" and claims to be part of Anonymous has hacked into and defaced websites of singer Ho Yeow Sun, the PAP Community Foundation and Ang Mo Kio Town Council. He also hacked into The Straits Times website yesterday morning and said the latest attack was prompted by a "misleading" online report which said he was targeting Singapore, rather than the Singapore Government.

Internet users need not be unduly alarmed. They should, however, be vigilant and continue to observe security best practices when transacting over the Internet. Such best practices include having strong passwords, not using the same password for different applications, and changing passwords regularly.

­- Mr Patrick Koh, network security firm Fortinet's network security architect for South-east Asia and Hong Kong

Government agencies have firewalls, restrictions on software, antivirus programs and technical teams who can handle such intrusions. Our infrastructure is advanced compared to many other countries. We should be okay.

- Mr Alex Nian, manager of IT firm SecureIT-NET

We should leave it to the police to do a thorough investigation, which they are doing now. We can't rule out a possible attack on our servers but Singaporeans should not be too worried. What we can do is to maintain security vigilance and ensure our systems have no security lapses.

- Mr Edwin Tong, deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law

Other hacking incidents here

2005

O-level student Ng Han Xian earned US$35,000 (S$43,500) by breaking into as many as 30,000 computers between August and September 2005.

He would install advertising software or adware programs in these computers to allow pop-up advertisements. The respective adware firms, which earned money by directing Internet traffic to online advertisements, would then give him a cut.

He was jailed for two months.

2010

A Malaysian engineer, who was found guilty of causing a massive blackout at the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) casino in 2010, was fined $3,000.

Leslie Liew Cheong Wee, then 36, who was employed by a subcontractor engaged to set up a system that manages electrical power at the integrated resort, hacked into the system from his home between May 9 and 12 in 2010. At the time, he had quit his job and was serving notice.

On May 12, there was a blackout at the casino, affecting all levels from the basement to Level 3 of the northern section.

2011

Hackers attacked the National Parks Board's (NParks) website in June and stole some data belonging to users.

A group of Malaysian hackers, called H3x4 Crew, was believed to have been behind the unauthorised access to the website, The Straits Times had reported.

The NParks website runs a range of user services such as applications for camping permits.

2013

Converse Singapore's website was hacked by someone who signed off as 404(Death) on Oct 27.

Atlantic Sports, which runs 14 outlets selling the popular sneakers here, reportedly confirmed the hacking incident but declined to comment further.

Major attacks overseas

A 12-year-old boy in Montreal, Canada, pleaded guilty last month to hacking into several government and police websites under the banner of Anonymous. The boy said he hacked the websites of the Montreal police, Quebec Institute of Public Health, and the Chilean government, among others, and traded information with Anonymous members for video games.

Lauri Love, 28, from England, UK, was charged in a US court last Monday for hacking into computers belonging to the US government and military, stealing sensitive data and causing damage that cost the institutions millions of dollars. Computer systems he hacked into include the army, the Pentagon's Missile Defence Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Poland's economy ministry was hacked by a group claiming to be from Anonymous last month. Documents such as visa requests, e-mails between ministry officials and login and password data were taken.

Hackers targeting software company Adobe Systems last month got a hold of data belonging to 38 million customers, including credit card details and part of the source-code for its products.

A traffic control system in a tunnel in the city of Haifa, Israel, was hit by a cyberattack in September. The area was shut down for eight hours, causing massive traffic congestion in the city.

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