2 more hacking cases as Nov 5 looms

SINGAPORE - Hacker attacks in Singapore have continued, with the websites of Seletar Airport and pre-school chain Carpe Diem the latest victims.

The former's website went down for 15 minutes on Sunday and bore the image of a skull wearing a hood, while the latter site was hacked on Sunday. It was defaced with an illustration of United States President Barack Obama with a noose around his neck, which was removed by yesterday afternoon.

The attacks come on the back of a recent stir over a hacker called "The Messiah", who issued a threat via YouTube on Thursday to attack the Singapore Government, over a new online news-licensing framework.

The Messiah - who claims to be from international hacktivist group Anonymous - also took responsibility for hacking The Straits Times' blog on Friday over what he called a misleading article.

Some users had difficulty accessing the straitstimes.com website on Sunday night and yesterday, said parent company Singapore Press Holdings yesterday, whose IT division is investigating the matter.

The Messiah is also believed to be behind the defacement of the websites of singer Ho Yeow Sun, the PAP Community Foundation and the Ang Mo Kio Town Council this year.

While the perpetrators of the latest hacking cases have not claimed any affiliation to The Messiah or Anonymous, questions were raised over whether some hackers are acting collectively in the lead-up to today. Nov 5 is Guy Fawkes' Day, which remembers the 17th century British activist, and whom the Anonymous group strongly associates itself with.

In his YouTube video last week, The Messiah asked Singaporeans to dress in black and red today, and to black out their Facebook profile pictures for a day - in a sign of protest against the Government.

An expert source, who declined to be named, said hacker behaviour is difficult to predict.

"You have intentional and directed behaviour, and ad hoc (attacks).

You also have coordinated and un-coordinated attacks - all happening at the same time," he said, adding that it would be difficult to draw inferences from the recent spate of events. He did not rule out copycats, who may be acting of their own accord.

Mr Scott Robertson, Asia-Pacific vice-president of WatchGuard Technologies, said: "What many don't realise is that businesses and governments alike are susceptible and experience various forms of malicious attacks every day."

He said the differentiating factor now is that hackers themselves are seeking attention and claiming responsibility, possibly creating a "surge of hype" over the attacks.

Mr Paul Ducklin, senior security adviser at Sophos, said: "Anonymous often seems able to rouse a rabble."

Pointing to recent cases of hackers being prosecuted in the US, he said: "However, there have been several well-publicised cases of Anonymous supporters turning out to be not-quite-so-anonymous after all, and ending up in prison.

"If it takes this year's Anonymous Nov 5 video threats to wake up organisations to cyber security, then that's a silver lining... Just don't go back to sleep about security on Nov 6."


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