Singapore arrests man, investigates others over hacker attacks

SINGAPORE Tue Nov 12, 2013 3:12am EST

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore charged on Tuesday a 35-year-old man suspected of hacking a website linked to the prime minister and police said five other men were assisting in separate investigations into a recent series of high-profile hacker attacks.

Hacker attacks by people claiming links to international hacker collective Anonymous, including one on the official sites of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Tony Tan, have raised questions about the strength of cyber defenses in the wealthy Southeast Asian city-state.

A suspect called James Raj appeared in court and was charged with modifying the contents of a website belonging to the town council that manages the prime minister's constituency on October 28.

If found guilty, he could be jailed for up to three years and fined S$10,000 ($8,000). Raj allegedly hacked the web server from an apartment in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, according to a charge sheet seen by Reuters.

A state prosecutor told the court that investigations were still going on and asked that Raj be remanded at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for psychiatric evaluation. The prosecutor said Raj had told police he suffered from attention deficit disorder and suicidal tendencies.

Police declined to give details but suggested that Raj was not responsible for defacing the prime minister's office and presidential palace websites on November 7 and 8.

Police said in a statement that those attacks were not related to earlier ones which they said were carried out by a 35-year-old Singaporean arrested on Nov 4. Police did not identify that person but they were apparently referring to Raj.

Police said they had worked closely with Malaysian counterparts to track down and arrest the suspect on November 4.

They said the man was believed to have operated alone and had been responsible for hacking the websites of the town council that manages the prime minister's constituency, a blog of the pro-government Straits Times newspaper and a foundation run by the ruling People's Action Party.

Raj's lawyer, M. Ravi, a human rights activist, told reporters he had not been allowed access to his client, and he could not confirm if Raj was linked to Anonymous.

On the high-profile attacks on the websites of the prime minister's office and presidential palace, police said five males aged 17 to 45 were helping them with their investigation.

Authorities on Tuesday also charged five other men with vandalism after they allegedly spray-painted words in support of Anonymous on a wall and a nearby pavement.

Under the Vandalism Act, a person found guilty can be fined up to S$2,000 or jailed up to three years and also be caned with between three to eight strokes. ($1 = 1.2487 Singapore dollars)

(Reporting by Kevin Lim; Editing by Robert Birsel)

FILED UNDER: