Stock exchange website hacker found guilty

Businessman who staged attacks on HKExnews website to promote his internet security service dubbed ‘highly reckless’ by District Court judge

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 October, 2012, 3:17am


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A businessman was found guilty yesterday of unleashing "highly reckless" cyberattacks on a stock exchange website last year.

Tse Man-lai, 28, had pleaded not guilty in the District Court to two counts of obtaining access to a computer with criminal or dishonest intent. He was convicted of both counts after a trial.

Tse launched denial-of-service (DoS) attacks on HKExnews, a website providing information from listed companies, on August 12 and 13 last year.

Handing down his verdict, Judge Kim Longley said Tse's attacks had been "highly reckless" and targeted a website important to Hong Kong.

DoS attacks are designed to interrupt or suspend a site's service. When they originate from more than one source, they are called DDoS attacks.

The court heard the attacks came from internet protocol addresses assigned to a computer used only by Tse, at his Tin Shui Wai home.

Tse made the attacks to promote his firm, Pacswitch Globe Telecom, the prosecution said. He planned to use screen images and a video from the hacking to market a method of preventing DDoS attacks, which he claimed to have invented.

Prosecutor Olivia Tsang Oi-kei told the court: "The defendant … used the computer to launch two attacks on HKExnews and subsequently to post or create the messages on the blog and the Yahoo webpage, all … to [make] dishonest gain for himself."

Tse's attacks came after the website suffered a DDoS attack from more than 300 foreign sources on August 10. That assault caused the bourse to suspend trades in seven firms, including HSBC, totalling HK$1.5 trillion. There was no evidence Tse was involved in that incident.

Defence lawyer Bernard Chung said his client had caused no damage to the website.

Tse claimed he had recorded the images for tutorials to teach others about DDoS attacks. The judge found this implausible.

Chung said Tse's case could be "the first of its kind" under the charge. It is normally used for those accused of taking photos up women's skirts or taking information from someone.

Tse was remanded in custody following the verdict. The judge has ordered a background report on him pending s sentencing hearing on November 9.

An HKExnews spokesman said the website had implemented security enhancements.