ITE student gets probation for hacking into Istana website

Melvin Teo, a student, arriving at the Subordinate Court on Nov 29, 2013. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Melvin Teo, a student, arriving at the Subordinate Court on Nov 29, 2013. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - An Institute of Technical Education (ITE) student who hacked into the Istana website was placed on probation on Monday.

Melvin Teo Boon Wei, 18, is the second person to be convicted of hacking into a Government website.

He had admitted to one of four charges of gaining unauthorised access to the server that hosted the Istana webpage at about 12.45am on Nov 8. He did this after communicating with Delson Moo Hiang Kng, 43, who was fined $8,000 on June 5 for a similar cyber attack around the same time.

The first-year electronics student hacked into the site to display the phrase "Melvin Teo For The Win!" with two caricatures of himself and some Chinese characters.

Three other charges were considered during his sentencing.

A Community Court heard that his act did not cause any damage to the contents of the Istana web server.

After the incident, steps have been taken to prevent such cross site scripting (XSS) attacks from occurring. The term refers to "injecting" a script into the Web application by exploiting a security vulnerability - in this case the Google search page embedded in the Istana website.

District Judge Lim Keng Yeow, who placed the teen on 12 months' supervised probation, told him to use his knowledge and interest in IT matters for the good of other people, and to apply them well in his studies.

"Use them to promote the well-being of other people rather than to act in mischief. Do you understand?'' asked Judge Lim. Teo said yes.

Earlier, the judge had said the courts took a very serious view of any form of cyber intrusion or attacks that threatened cyber security.

He said this case involved an "act of immaturity, an act of wanton mischief''.

He noted, however, that apart from the search functions of the Istana website being disabled for a few days, there were no other serious consequences.

Under the probation order, Teo has to stay indoors from 10pm to 6am and perform 80 hours of community service.

His parents had to come up with a $5,000 bond to ensure his good behaviour while he is on probation.

The maximum penalty for a first-time offender is a $10,000 fine and three years' jail.