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Cyber Crimes In Singapore

Committing Cyber crimes Online In Singapore; The Computer Misuse and Cyber Security Act

While technological advancements have generated a manifold of advantages, they have also allowed cyber criminals to evolve, misusing the convenience, mobility and anonymity of online platforms. As of 2016, cybercrime cost the global economy over US$450 billion (S$620 billion), with an estimated US$3 trillion of losses by 2020. On the world map, Singapore is not exempt from such crimes either. Cyber bank robbery, ransomware attacks and business e-mail compromise attacks have plagued some in Singapore, most recently the WannaCry and NotPetya attacks which greatly affected thousands of individuals and organisations worldwide.

 

Top security experts highlighted the need for law enforcement and private sectors to join forces against cybercrime at Interpol World 2017. For a clearer picture of the  global proliferation of online attacks affecting Singapore, PwC’s 2016 Global Economic Crime Survey showed cybercrime incidents targeting Singapore-based companies have spiked from 15 per cent in 2014 to 43 per cent in 2016, becoming the second-most prevalent economic crime here.

 

Economic crime is ever-evolving, and becoming a more complex issue for organisations and economies. As of 2017, local law enforcement has stepped up to further safeguard the strategically crucial areas of cybercrime; giving its regulatory landscape a stricter overhaul under the amended Computer Misuse and Cyber Security Act (CMCA). What do such regulations mean for the society at large, the business community and its stakeholders in Singapore? The following amendments to the CMCA act were passed in Parliament in April 2017 by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

 

Dealing In Personal Information Obtained Via A Cybercrime

The government has criminalised the act of dealing in personal information obtained via an act in contravention of the CMCA. Criminals may use personal information obtained illegally from a computer (e.g. hacking) to commit or facilitate the commission of crimes (e.g. identity fraud). For example, criminals may trade hacked credit card information even though they themselves may not have been responsible for hacking the credit card information. This amendment makes it an offence for persons to obtain or deal in such personal information for illegitimate purposes. In the most recent case of 2017, Vietnamese national and ASEAN Scholarship holder Tran Gia Hung, 22, a first-year business management student in Singapore Management University (SMU), altered his “Final Examination” mark from D+ to B, and his “Final Adjusted Grade” from B to A-, along with raising grades for seven students and lowering them for two by accessing an e-Learn system with his professor’s password. This led to an investigation by the police into the hacking of Dr Rajah Kumar’s account. Hung was jailed for 16 weeks after admitting to 10 charges under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act, and one under the Penal Code for causing evidence of his accessing of the computer server of SMU to be erased from his laptop.

 

Dealing In Hacking Tools To Commit A CMCA Offence 

It is now illegal to deal in in items capable of being used to commit a CMCA offence. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, criminals could gain easy access to items that are capable of facilitating the illegal access of a computer (commonly known as hacking tools). Examples of such hacking tools include malware and port scanners, which can be readily obtained online. It said that this amendment criminalises the act of obtaining such items to commit or facilitate the commission of a computer offence, as well as the act of dealing in such items, intending it to be used for committing or facilitating the commission of a computer offence.

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Causing Serious Harm To Singapore With A CMCA Offence While Overseas, Against A Computer Located Overseas.

It is also now an offence for someone committing a criminal act while overseas, against a computer located overseas, should the act “cause or create a significant risk of serious harm in Singapore”. The Ministry of Home Affairs define serious harm in various ways. “This amendment makes this an offence under the CMCA, if the act causes or creates a significant risk of serious harm in Singapore. Serious harm in Singapore would include, among other things, illness, injury or death of individuals in Singapore, as well as disruptions to essential services in Singapore.”

 

Amalgamate Charges For CMCA offences

Cybercriminals may conduct multiple unauthorised acts against a computer over a period of time. This amendment allows for multiple acts of a similar nature to be amalgamated as a single charge. This allows the attack to be appropriately described as a whole, rather than as a series of acts. It also allows for the application of enhanced penalties when the combined acts result in high aggregate damage.

 

In 2015, 36 year old Singaporean James Raj Arokiasamy who went by the monker “The Messiah” was charged with a total of 162 charges, of which 39 computer misuse charges and one charge for drug consumption were proceeded with. Among the hacker’s cybercrimes was securing unauthorised access into various web servers, including those of Fuji Xerox, Standard Chartered Bank, and the website of a district represented by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. He was sentenced to nearly 5 years in jail with District Court judge Jennifer Marie saying the stiff sentence imposed on James Raj was meant to act as a strong deterrent to would-be hackers, and warned that cyber attacks posed “considerable danger to the economy and the country”. Affected organisations spent about S$1.36 million to repair their computer systems, the court heard. Raj had pleaded guilty to 39 cyber-related charges, including the October 2013 hacking of the Ang Mo Kio district website, whose MPs include Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and posting the image of a Guy Fawkes mask used by hacker collective Anonymous. Raj identified himself as “The Messiah” and carried out the hack from an apartment in Kuala Lumpur in neighbouring Malaysia. He had fled to Malaysia after skipping police bail in 2011 for drug offences, before being extradited back to Singapore in November 2013.

 

The reality as of 2017 is that like every other aspect of commerce, economic crime has, to some extent, gone digital. In addition to taking steps to safeguard yourself from such crimes, take further steps not to fall prey to committing an offence against the CMCA, for the MHA in Singapore takes a strict stance against cybercrimes. In a nutshell, the following are prohibited under Sections 3 to 8 of the CMCA:

 

Unauthorised access to computer material;
Access with intent to commit or facilitate commission of offence;
Unauthorised modification of computer material;
Unauthorised interception of computer service;
Unauthorised obstruction of use of computer; and
Unauthorised disclosure of access code.

 

How We Can Help

At Emerald Law, our knowledgeable and understanding lawyers are more than willing to work through your case with you. If charged with committing a cybercrime, having such experienced lawyers fight your case only makes sense. We aim to provide quality services at affordable prices, so you can place all your focus on getting the best outcome for your case without worrying about your wallet. Contact us when you are ready to discuss your case.

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