Man who sold SingPass data to Chinese syndicate gets jail

James Sim Guan Liang
James Sim Guan LiangST FILE PHOTO

His actions created significant public disquiet, says judge

A former administrative assistant who cracked the passwords of around 300 SingPass holders and sold them to a Chinese syndicate producing sham Singapore visa applications created "significant public disquiet", a judge said yesterday.

James Sim Guan Liang, 39, was jailed for five years and two months, having pleaded guilty to 73 charges. Another 813 counts were considered during sentencing.

Agreeing with the prosecution's call for a deterrent sentence, District Judge Low Wee Ping told Sim: "As a result of your crime, some criminals made use of these SingPass passwords and our immigration and border protection system was breached.

"The SingPass system is a very vital part of our Singapore Government info-technology infrastructure. The entire nation relies on it. For you to compromise this important system and expose hundreds of users to potential harm is unconscionable."

Sim was paid $1,500 in total by the Zhejiang-based syndicate, which successfully applied for 23 visas. As a result, 20 Chinese nationals entered Singapore using them. Three committed crimes here and were dealt with and repatriated. The status of the rest is unknown.

Between March and May 2011, Sim spent hours making tens of thousands of log-in attempts from his home in Toa Payoh, after realising people could use their NRIC number as their SingPass password.

UNCONSCIONABLE ACT

The SingPass system is a very vital part of our Singapore Government info-technology infrastructure. The entire nation relies on it. For you to compromise this important system and expose hundreds of users to potential harm is unconscionable.

DISTRICT JUDGE LOW, to Sim who was jailed for five years and two months.

To guess the passwords, he would tweak the last one or two digits of the SingPass ID and alphabet suffix. Once successful, he used the credentials to log on to the Media Development Authority and Central Provident Fund Board websites to get an account holder's personal details. He unlawfully accessed these computer systems 577 times.

Sim e-mailed the details in batches to a person named "Lemon", to help the syndicate make false statements to get Singapore visas. Details from 293 SingPass accounts were unlawfully disclosed by Sim.

He became involved in the syndicate in 2006 after meeting Lemon at a gathering. The latter said Sim could make money by handing his NRIC over for a day. Despite knowing this was for sham visa applications, Sim gave his details on several occasions, getting $100 each time. When his NRIC number could no longer be used, Lemon asked him for SingPass credentials of others.

Sim admitted his involvement in the scheme after the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority found numerous suspicious visa applications using the same credit card. He will serve his sentence from April 7.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Man who sold SingPass data to Chinese syndicate gets jail'. Print Edition | Subscribe