Anonymous activists hack Singapore newspaper over internet freedom

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 4:10pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 November, 2013, 1:56am

Activist group Anonymous hacked a Singaporean newspaper website yesterday and threatened wider cyber attacks over internet freedom, with government agencies reportedly on alert after the group said it would "wage war" on the city state.

The website of the pro-government Straits Times was hacked early in the day by apparent members of the group, which was opposing recently introduced licensing rules for news websites in Singapore.

The attackers, using the name "Messiah", took over the blog of a Straits Times journalist, saying she had distorted "our words and intentions" in a report on the group's threat a day earlier to "wage war" on the Singaporean government to protest internet curbs.

"We oppose any form of internet censorship among other things," said a post on the journalist's hacked blog, which had been taken offline.

The hackers urged the journalist to apologise within 48 hours "to the citizens of Singapore for trying to mislead them".

If she failed to apologise, "then we expect her resignation", the hacker added. "If those demands are met we will be on our way. But in the event our demands are not met in the next 48 hours, we will place you in our 'to do' list and next time you wont (sic) be let off this easy."

Singapore Press Holdings, the company which publishes the newspaper, said: "We have made a police report, and the police are investigating."

The attack on The Straits Times followed a post on the video-sharing site YouTube on Thursday in which a person claiming to speak for Anonymous warned it would attack Singapore's financial infrastructure if it did not rescind the new rules.

"We demand you reconsider the regulations of your framework or we will be forced to go to war with you," a male voice said as a person wearing a mask appeared in the YouTube clip, addressing the government.

"Every time you deprive a citizen [sic] his right to information, we will cause you financial loss by aggressive cyber intrusion," said the speaker.

Reacting to the YouTube clip, Singapore's Infocomm Development Authority said: "We are aware of the video, and the police are investigating the matter." The Straits Times, meanwhile, said it had learned that government agencies had been put on alert following the warning. It said the alert directive came from the Government IT Security Incident Response Team, which was set up to co-ordinate responses to cyber attacks.

The rules opposed by the hackers were imposed on June 1 and require annual licensing for news websites with at least 50,000 unique visitors from within Singapore every month. Websites granted a licence must remove "prohibited content" such as articles that undermine "racial or religious harmony" within 24 hours of being notified by Singapore's media regulator.

The rules have sparked anger in the city state's robust blogging and social media community, which has accused the government of failing to carry out a consultation and raised fears the regulations are aimed at muzzling free expression.

Blogs and social media have gained popularity as alternative sources of news and opinion in Singapore, where mainstream newspapers and broadcasters are perceived to be pro-government. Singapore authorities have said the new rules do not impinge on internet freedom.