Engineer gets 8 months' jail for hacking into police CCTV cameras at SEA Games 2015

The closing ceremony of the 28th SEA Games at the Singapore Sports Hub on June 16, 2015.
The closing ceremony of the 28th SEA Games at the Singapore Sports Hub on June 16, 2015.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - Just hours before the start of the closing ceremony for the SEA Games at the Singapore Sports Hub in June last year, a CCTV expert hacked into the police security system and sabotaged it, a district court heard.

The police feeds from nearly 30 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras inside and outside the stadium were disrupted.

The engineer, skilled in CCTV technology, carried out the sabotage with a laptop from a nearby carpark.

Daniel Tan Khoon Guan, 59, was angry over alleged non-payments by ST Electronics (Info-Comm Systems) which had been tasked to set up the CCTV security system.

Tan, who is the owner and engineering director of Serron Technology which specialises in CCTV technology, wanted to get back at his former business partner. The two firms had initially collaborated on the CCTV project for the biennial South-east Asian sports events.

On Tuesday (Aug 16), Tan was sentenced to eight months' jail after he pleaded guilty to 10 out of 53 charges under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act. The remaining counts were taken into account in sentencing.

The court heard that Serron was supposed to provide technical support to ST Electronics (Info-Comm Systems) for the SEA Games, which was held from June 5 to 16. But Serron later withdrew its support due to business disagreements.

Tan was also angry with ST Electronics over alleged non-payments for previous projects in which the two firms had collaborated on.

"(Tan) then formed the intention to get back at ST Electronics, and set out to commit the offences in order to disrupt the CCTV feed for the SEA Games 2015 project undertaken by ST," Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Sheryl Janet George told the court.

He also planned for the crimes to occur shortly before the SEA Games' closing ceremony, so that ST Electronics would have an emergency situation to deal with, she said.

Tan drove to the Singapore Indoor Stadium at about 10.15pm on June 15 last year and parked his car just outside the stadium's carpark.

He then used a software tool on his laptop to scan the event's CCTV system, before gaining full access to all the police CCTV cameras in the Singapore Sports Hub area.

Because he had worked on the project earlier, Tan knew the IP addresses, usernames and passwords used for the CCTV system.

Between 10.15pm and 12.20am, Tan gained access to 29 CCTV cameras and changed the settings for 15 of them.

He also gained entry to six access points of the CCTV system and changed the passwords of three of them.

As a result of his crimes, the police's CCTV feed of the Sports Hub area was disrupted and technicians worked urgently in the early hours of the morning to bring the system back online. The SEA Games' closing ceremony was scheduled to begin at 8pm on June 16 and it was a major regional event.

Said DPP George: "Had he acted any closer to the time of the closing ceremony, the police may not have been able to recover function to the affected CCTV cameras in time to ensure that there was full security coverage at the closing ceremony."

She added: "(Tan) deliberately chose a high-profile international event at which to perpetrate his offences, in a bid to get attention and make a point to a business rival... the court must show that such conduct cannot and will not be tolerated, because of the risks posed to public safety and security."

The DPP asked that he be jailed between eight months and a year.

In mitigation, defence lawyer Ignatius Joseph pointed to Tan's record of public service and asked for a short jail term.

In sentencing, District Judge Low Wee Ping took into account Tan's contributions to society.

Tan, a former Air Force major, was a principal engineering officer with the RSAF's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Command. He also took part in a successful hostage rescue mission in the jungles of Timor Leste in the early 1990s.

Tan, who is out on $10,000 bail, will start serving his sentence on Sept 13.

amirh@sph.com.sg