Singapore – A Singaporean man who called himself “The Messiah” was sentenced to nearly five years in jail Friday for hacking into several servers, including the website of a district represented by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
District court judge Jennifer Marie said the stiff sentence she imposed on James Raj, 36, 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”.
The ruling comes as Singapore this week sought to strengthen its defenses against hackers, announcing it will set up a new agency to improve cyber security amid high profile hacking incidents worldwide.
Raj had plead 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.
According to the charge sheet, Raj identified himself as “The Messiah” and carried out the hack from an apartment in Kuala Lumpur in neighboring Malaysia.
He had fled to Malaysia after skipping police bail in 2011 for drug offenses, before being extradited back to Singapore in November 2013. Raj had used the “The Messiah” moniker before to hack a reporter’s blog on the website of the pro-government newspaper the Straits Times.
He had also secured unauthorized access into various other web servers, including those of Fuji Xerox and Standard Chartered Bank.
He also posted a video — purportedly from Anonymous — which demanded the scrapping of a law in Singapore requiring news websites to obtain annual licences.
The law had sparked anger among bloggers and activists who say it is designed to muzzle freedom of expression, especially on social media which has increasingly become an avenue for citizens to criticize the government.
“Singapore is a major IT centre both regionally and globally. Cyber intrusions and threats pose considerable danger to the economy and the country,” the judge said.
The judge noted that state prosecutors had described the offense committed by Raj as “the largest, most prolific cyber attacks against IT systems in Singapore”.
In December, a court jailed another hacker, 28-year-old Mohammad Azhar bin Tahir, for two months for defacing the prime minister’s office website with mocking messages and pictures.