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Occupy Central

Hong Kong sales supervisor has conviction overturned over police website attack

High Court judge rules that lower court judgment over denial-of-service attack in early days of Occupy protests was unsafe

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2016, 8:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2016, 8:00am

A sales supervisor has had her conviction overturned for causing the police website to crash by using software to access it more than 7,000 times in 24 minutes during the early days of the Occupy protests in 2014.

In a judgment handed down in the High Court on Tuesday, Mr Justice Albert Wong Sung-hau stated that the trial judge had failed to consider all relevant factors and the ruling was “unsafe”.

The woman, Chu Ting-ting, was given a community service order in Eastern Court in November last year after she was found guilty of launching an attack on the website.

The alleged attack took place from 12.53am to 1.17am on October 4, 2014 with 7,467 attempts to access the webpage.

Hongkonger who launched over 6,000 web attacks during Occupy movement gets 15 months probation

The barrage of access attempts is known as a denial-of-service attack. It is aimed at making a server unavailable by overloading it with traffic and causing it to crash.

The lower court heard normal users might not be able to access the webpage and see its contents.

Under caution, Chu had previously told police officers that she was aware of a cyberattack launched by hacker group Anonymous. The loosely affiliated group frequently undertakes campaigns using denial-of-service attacks as one of its tools. Chu told police at the time that her computer crashed after she clicked a link on the group’s Facebook page.

The sales supervisor pleaded not guilty in Eastern Court to one count of criminal damage and another charge of obtaining access to a computer with criminal intent.

After her conviction for criminal damage last year, Chu filed an appeal in the High Court on the grounds that the original trial judge had erred in finding her guilty of the offence.

In its ruling, the High Court concluded that Chu’s conviction was unsafe.

Quashing the conviction, Wong noted that the time Chu spent browsing the force’s webpage did not coincide exactly with the duration of the alleged attack and Eastern Court failed to take that into consideration in making its ruling.

Neither the link on which she clicked nor the condition under which she pressed the button in question were thoroughly examined by the parties, the judge added.

“Whether her conduct would be unreasonable requires careful consideration,” Wong said.