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Singapore Computer Crime Laws OK Preemptive Arrest

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the but-you-were-thinkin'-it dept.

Censorship 35

^^MAg^^ points to this Reuters story on CNN which begins "Ultra-strict Singapore has passed some of the world's toughest laws against computer hackers and virus writers, allowing police to arrest suspects before they strike, official documents show."

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FP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7456986)

First post!

Come and get me, Sweedies!

Re:FP (2, Funny)

orthogonal (588627) | more than 10 years ago | (#7457036)

First post!

I still win, with a Singapore Police style pre-emptive first post.

Becaues I knew someone would try for it.

Re:FP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7463842)

singapore was always horse sh*t. A comple communist state under a fake titile of democracy. no fuck** place for any kind of free of speech or any freedom wat soever.

a new... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7480563)

slashdotism! Right along side of In Soviet Russia and Imagine a Beowulf Cluster of Those... we now will be flooded with Singapore Police Style comments... gods I love this place, because, I find repetitive humor to become more humorous, exponentially.

OMFG FP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7456996)


YOU FAILED ITT!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7459771)

yuo suX0rzs

What, for just THINKING about Computer Crime?!? (1)

ivi (126837) | more than 10 years ago | (#7457205)

Wasn't there a movie about arresting would-be
murderers, eg for just planning their crimes?

Re:What, for just THINKING about Computer Crime?!? (1)

The Munger (695154) | more than 10 years ago | (#7459470)

You're probably thinking of Minority Report [] .

Re:What, for just THINKING about Computer Crime?!? (1)

Feztaa (633745) | more than 10 years ago | (#7459887)

Not sure if your question is rhetorical, but you're probably thinking about Minority Report.

Re:What, for just THINKING about Computer Crime?!? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7459975)


(thought crime)

Whew (2, Insightful)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 10 years ago | (#7457290)

This coming from a country where chewing gum is illegal

Wrong. (3, Informative)

The Cydonian (603441) | more than 10 years ago | (#7459695)

I seem to be posting this on /. each time there's a story on .sg; guess you guys never tire of telling this over and over again, so allow me to karma-whore a bit and explain why this perception is wrong.

You see, chewing gum per se is not illegal, but the sale of chewing gum is. That's an important distinction; it means you can, for instance, legally import how much ever chewing gum you want into the island, only that you can't sell it. Been like that eversince chewing gum was legislated, mostly as a way of preventing adolescents from sticking left-over gum between the sliding doors of Singapore's ultra-efficient metro system, the MRT (and hence jamming them, causing systemwide disruptions).

Btw, even that fig-leaf is now mostly gone. The recent Singapore US Free Trade Agreement stipulates legal sales of chewing gum that can be used for "medicinal" purposes through registered/licenced apothecaries. So don't be surprised if you see chewing gum (although perhaps not bubble gum, if you get what I mean) being sold in a pharmacy on Orchard Road or something.

(The locals that I know call this the "Wrigley Amendment" for some reason. Wonder why, hmmm.)

Re:Wrong. (1)

Dyolf Knip (165446) | more than 10 years ago | (#7461009)

Prohibition didn't make drinking alcohol illegal. And the Marijuana Tax Act didn't make smoking pot illegal either. And of course, the DMCA does't outlaw reverse engineering. But total illegality has been the effects of all such laws.

Re:Wrong. (1)

The Cydonian (603441) | more than 10 years ago | (#7480051)

A point well-taken, actually. Didn't know about Prohibition-Era laws or the legal nuances of the War Against Drugs.

My point, and I probably should have said this earlier itself, was that it's actually fairly easy for Singaporeans to have bubble gum despite its sale being banned; since gum is allowed into Singapore, all that they have to do is to pop into Malaysia, which is a mere 30 minutes away by bus, get the gum, and pop back.

However, I suppose you are right in a sense; people, by nature, are lazy, and I daresay, not many would feel like crossing the border just to get a teeny-weeny piece of bubble gum.

Oh... (1)

Sanity (1431) | more than 10 years ago | (#7465172)

...well, I am more concerned about the lack of free speech in Singapore and its paternalistic government than the lack of ability to sell chewing gum freely. What was it William Gibson called it - "Disneyland with a Death Penalty".

Still, I am glad the US has its priorities right when it comes to pressuring repressive regimes into relaxing their strict laws. Who needs freedom of speech when you can sell chewing gum?!

Very scary (3, Insightful)

pmz (462998) | more than 10 years ago | (#7457299)

From the article: "Singapore's Internal Security Act, a Draconian law written by the island's former British colonial rules that allows for detention without trial and was used to halt communism in Singapore in the 1950s."

While not an advocate of Communism, I am very much an advocate of the First Amendment, and here we have a historical account about internal security laws putting to rest an entire ideology within a country. The USA should take this as a warning, before we end up a government-controlled monoculture or, at best, a government-selected and allowed group of subcultures.

Of course, we are already headed down this path, because it seems law enforcement is perfectly happy with racial and ethnic profiling, ignoring the reality of the Unabomber and Oaklahoma City So, now, we have law enforcement based on logical fallacy. That's just splendid.

Re:Very scary (2, Insightful)

Zork the Almighty (599344) | more than 10 years ago | (#7458178)

Quite frankly, there are too many people in western countries who see no problem with censorship (as long as it's not applied to them) or the reduction and suspension of rights and due process (again, as long as it's not applied to them). Sometimes I wish they could all live in Singapore for a year so they could see the effects firsthand.

Re:Very scary (2, Insightful)

pmz (462998) | more than 10 years ago | (#7458338)

True. This fact is reflected throughout existing laws. Basically most laws that mention sex fall into this category (i.e., non-missionary-style is illegal in North Carolina, IIRC, and Texas has laws about sodomy). These laws are blatany unconstitutional, yet they get passed anyway, because of the bigotry of people in state and federal congresses. While technically not censorship, the federal income tax laws are as biased as they come, where the government arbitrarily takes from one group and gives it to another. Racial profiling is unconstitutional, yet people do it. The Endowment for the Arts chooses who it funds. Etc. etc. etc. Whatever happened to equality under the law?

All these cases are very good arguements for keeping money and influence out of the government, because, once the government gets a new tool against the people, it will prod, twist, and bend the public with its arbitrary ideology defined by political motivation.

Re:Very scary (1)

JuggleGeek (665620) | more than 10 years ago | (#7476538)

and Texas has laws about sodomy

That should be "had" laws about sodomy. They've been ruled unconstitutional, which IMO is a good thing.

Re:Very scary (1)

realdpk (116490) | more than 10 years ago | (#7458511)

Er, we already have people detained without even being charged. Look up the domestic abuse laws. You can have some bitch lie to the police, you'll go to jail for at least a week, maybe 2 before they even arrest you, so you can't even call a lawyer or anything.

It's already almost as bad as it can get.

Re:Very scary (2, Insightful)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 10 years ago | (#7458732)

It's already almost as bad as it can get.

No, it can still get _much_ worse. _And_ it's much worse now than it's been.

Re:Very scary (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 10 years ago | (#7464671)

I call bullshit. The longest you can be held by the cops without them filing paperwork is 72 hours. Realistically, any decent lawyer, even a pro bono or public defender one, will get you back on the streets in less time. (IIRC, the reason for the 72 hour rule is in case of a three day weekend, when the courts are closed for 72 hours, though that hasn't stopped the police from using it during regular work weeks, too.)

The only other time you can be held without being charged with an actual crime is if you are a material witness, and then it's as much for your protection as anything else. I'm not sure where this started, but it likely was during the crackdown on organized crime; now it is used in the fight against terrorism.

All that aside, it is *really* easy to get someone arrested by the police, and if you do it right it won't even come back to bite you on the ass. If you're a woman, just start crying and claim your boyfriend beat you up, chances are he'll have to cop a plea just to get on with his life, and noone will ever doubt your story. After all, we all know men are animals and women are saints, right?

Best of times, worst of times. (4, Interesting)

The Cydonian (603441) | more than 10 years ago | (#7460029)

Two reactions:-

a) Existing Law:
sg's CMA (Computer Misuse Act) was already draconian before this Amendment, when compared to its American counterpart (sorry, forgot the name of the law; I'm sure an American lawyer/lawyer-wannabe can cite the right reference here). For a similar type of offence, the maximum penalty prescribed under American law was 1 year, while under the CMA, it was 10 years (and some S$10,000 or so in fines).

Moreover, it was a classic example of what you Americans apparently call as a "catch-all" law; it was written in so general terms that just about any and every computer crime could be prosecuted under that. For instance, one Singaporean legal expert I was speaking to a few weeks back suggested that the Government could easily have prosecuted spammers under the old law (the article doesn't mention it, but I understand that the new one has now specifically banned spamming)

The general opinion, then, among academia and policy makers in sg is that the CMA has been a resounding success; they keep pointing out to the fact that incidents of computer crime are remarkably low in sg compared to neighbouring countries (In particular, most people compare it with the high cybercrime rate in Phillipines, which only has a law on e-commerce, not cybercrime in general)

This, however, misses the fact that Singaporean policy-makers have long had issues in promoting creativity and innovation among the local populace; one of the reasons that's usually pointed out is sg's highly regulated environment. Which, of course, is to not say that cybercrime should be legalised, but instead to suggest that, perhaps, a repressive legal regime stifles creativity; I, for one, really think a 10 year jail term for cracking is a bit too much, and does not promote the sort of freedom that creativity apparently needs.

(I'm refraining from commenting on the current Amendment 'coz I haven't gone through it)

I guess some of you Americans must be feeling scared and all that, and no doubt, there will be reactions from EU-ians (to use K5-lingo) and .au-ians lampooning your current administration, but let's face facts, people:- respect for citizens' privacy and liberties is at an all time low in just about any country these days.

Yup, that's right; you'll be just kidding yourself if you believe that just because your country has law X, you're free from being snooped upon.

The current theme, apparently, is informal agreements between governmental agencies; so if, say, the CIA can't legally snoop on a suspicious American citizen, it will send an informal request to, say, MI-5 (or whatever the Brit Secret Service is) and ask them to snoop on the said citizen. The Brits will do so vice-versa, and so far, the requests have been honoured by whatever countries are in the loop. And trust me, you'll be amazed if you see the list of countries with such informal agreements; there are some hitherto un-obvious names out there.

All this, of course, is what I've been gathering in seminars on cybercrime for the last few weeks, and obviously, I can cite these up with actual examples if anyone is interested.

Which, of course, doesn't mean that Big Brother is out to get you or anything, and frankly, I really detest the way in which Slippery Slope arguments are tossed here on /.; my real point is that borders are less sacred these days than they used to be, even among law enforcement agencies.

Or in other words, it's plain stupid to think that these draconian laws don't affect you; they do, and for all you know, sg's law enforcement is informally helping your own country's law enforcement as a result of this.

(Okay, that was extra-ordinarily incoherent, but need some serious sleep asap. Which is also the reason why I could be wrong in a few details, and why I haven't given any links; willing to be corrected/challenged on this)

Re:Best of times, worst of times. (1)

pmz (462998) | more than 10 years ago | (#7463631)

Thanks for the detailed reply. The loopholes in international spying is certainly interesting.

I really detest the way in which Slippery Slope arguments are tossed here on /.

I think it's not really a slippery slope, rather it's a long mild grade downhill. We could climb that hill if not for the cascade of 100-ton boulders of complacency just uphill from us.

Re:Very scary (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7473910)

Communism is appropriately dealt with by any means necessary to destroy it, Draconian methods included.

Sounds like American rhetoric (2, Informative)

j-turkey (187775) | more than 10 years ago | (#7457938)

"Instead of a backpack of explosives, a terrorist can create just as much devastation by sending a carefully engineered packet of data into the computer systems which control the network for essential services, for example the power stations"

I've heard the same rhetoric from US legislators (something along the lines of using a mouse as a weapon). This is complete bullshit. If anyone should be penalized in a case like this, it's the guy who hooked the power station's computer system (or that of any other essential service) into the public Internet in such a way that a few packets could be as devistating as a bomb which will end lives (these services, IIRC, are not hooked into the public Internet). What the fuck are these people thinking? Just capitalizing (by passing hardcore laws) on peoples' fears, I assume.

Nothing like this has ever been done before anyway. They're pre-emptively making laws for crimes which have never been committed. This is the exact same thing that the US government did after September, 2001 (except a little more Draconian). I fail to understand the logic. It's not even a deterrent. Terrorists don't give a shit about penalties (IMO) -- they're terrorists! Most of the ones I've read about are happy to end their lives for their cause.

It doesn't make any sense to me on any level.


Re:Sounds like American rhetoric (2, Interesting)

Frac (27516) | more than 10 years ago | (#7458061)

I fail to understand the logic. It's not even a deterrent. Terrorists don't give a shit about penalties (IMO) -- they're terrorists! Most of the ones I've read about are happy to end their lives for their cause.

Exactly, they don't! So if you are only allowed to arrest them after the crime is committed, they don't really care. However, if they are locked up behind bars right before they are about to commit a crime, you avoid the potential disaster that follows.

Aren't you arguing FOR preemptive arrest then?

Re:Sounds like American rhetoric (2, Insightful)

j-turkey (187775) | more than 10 years ago | (#7458485)

Aren't you arguing FOR preemptive arrest then?

No -- I'm not arguing for pre-emptive arrest. None of these laws change the fact that conspiracy is, and always was a crime. If one plans to commit any crime, it's a conspiracy. There's no need for a specific pre-emptive law that increases the (already very severe) penalties. The only thing that this attempts to do is serve as a deterrent...which as I stated before, doesn't work against terrorists.

You are also ignoring the meat of my post that "cyberterrorism" is not the threat it's made out to be. It's either a way for governments to extend their power, or it serves as a poor answer to the public outcry ("do something!"). American public utilities and critical services are not part of, or in any way hooked up to the public Internet or any other public network (I don't know about Singapore's). If they were, the people who did set it up are recklessly, and potentially criminally, irresponsible (this goes for Singapore too).


Re:Sounds like American rhetoric (2, Interesting)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 10 years ago | (#7459118)

IANAL, but IIRC, conspiracy requires the participation of two or more persons.

Re:Sounds like American rhetoric (2, Informative)

pueywei (658832) | more than 10 years ago | (#7462166)

It will be effective for this sort of "hacking": ndly/0,4139, 37256-1065283140,00.html?

The New Paper - 04 Oct 2003 - E-MAIL BOMBER - By Andre Yeo

China-born PSLE student sends 161,064 messages to teacher

IF you have a Yahoo! e-mail account, you probably see a list of 25 messages when you open your inbox.

Now imagine logging in one day - and finding that your inbox has 6,443 such pages. Each page with 25 messages.

That's what happened to a teacher, whose account was flooded with more than 161,000 e-mail messages.

The culprit: A bored schoolboy who hacked into an online portal.

The police said he is the only juvenile to be arrested for hacking this year.

The 15-year-old, a Chinese national, will be taking his PSLE next week. He and his school cannot be named as he is a juvenile.

According to court documents, the boy was an account holder of, an online service portal.

His principal told The New Paper that it is a subject-based learning portal where her students and teachers are provided e-mail accounts.

Teachers can set quizzes on subjects like English, Maths, Science and Chinese on the portal and students can access it to do these assignments.

Homework is also submitted online, and students can e-mail one another and teachers too.

During the March holidays, the boy felt bored at home.
His principal said his mother was a study mama working as an enrichment tutor and had left her only child at home. She said the boy's father is in China.
Study mamas come from China with their children to enrol them in schools here.
With nothing to do at home, the boy accessed the site and tested it for weaknesses.
He managed to open the school's address book and copied the e-mail addresses of all the teachers.
He then managed to get the teachers' passwords to the portal.
With their usernames and passwords, he was able to access other portals.
He also hacked into the accounts of several students.
Then on May 25, he flooded the e-mail account of one of his teachers with 161,064 messages. It is not known why he did it.
On Jun 23, officers from the Criminal Investigation Department's Technology Crime Investigation Branch raided his flat and seized his computer and computer peripherals.
His principal said the boy was a good student.

She said: 'He doesn't know the implications of what he was doing. It's cybercrime and it's something new to us.'

She added that he had to see a counsellor because of the offences and is still studying at the school.
Despite his brush with the law, she was confident he would do well in his exams.
She said: 'He is a bright kid and should be able to get a number of A-stars for the PSLE.'
And as to where he learnt his hacking skills, she said: 'He learnt all that from the Internet. Our school doesn't teach them that.'

According to MoreAtOnce Pte Ltd's website, its business partners include the Ministry of Education, the National Heritage Board and the Singapore Zoological Gardens.
The company declined to comment.

35 charges in court

THE boy faced 35 charges under the Computer Misuse Act, mostly involving the MoreAtOnce web portal.
Nine charges were proceeded with while the remaining 26 were taken into consideration.
He was found guilty and his case was adjourned to Nov 11.

A police spokesman said that from 2000 to 2002, only one juvenile was arrested for hacking. He was a 15-year-old Indonesian boy who had hacked into a server belonging to Data Storage Institute and was fined $15,000 by the juvenile court.
The spokesman added that except for yesterday's case, no other juvenile was arrested for computer hacking this year.

There has also been a drop in the number of reported computer hacking cases, from 15 in 2001 to eight in 2002.
The youngest hacker caught so far was a 15-year-old teen who was arrested with several others in 1999 for hacking into the then TCS website and defacing it. He was sentenced to 12 months' probation and had to do 100 hours of community service.


-Educate your child about the dos and don'ts when on the Internet - Keep the computer in a room where you can see what is going on - Spend time surfing with your children and learn from them how the Internet works - Encourage them to be smart and do not lay down strict rules. - Make them understand the consequences of hacking

-- Note: The New Paper is like a tabloid, only that it is very, very tame.

Re:Sounds like American rhetoric (1)

j-turkey (187775) | more than 10 years ago | (#7463715)

It will be effective for this sort of "hacking":

Government officials were quoted as specifically targeting "cyberterrorism". This is the rhetoric I was (and will continue to be) critical of.


Singapore and Jasper have a lot in common (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7458471)

Talking out of turn...that's a paddling.
Looking out the window...that's a paddling.
Staring at my sandals...that's a paddling.
Paddling the school canoe...ooh, you better believe that's a paddling.

none of you get it (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7474650)

i realise that draconian, insensitive and unforgiving authoritarian laws are the very hallmarks of southeast asian political systems, but the reason for this is neither theocratic rule nor overly traditional culture.

in terms of size, singapore is no US. (it is the size of washington dc, however.)

which means, incidentally, that the misconduct of just a small group of people will affect the rest in a much larger fashion.

and of course, there is no space at all for corporate competition. linux users in singapore are virtually non-existant, and almost everyone uses a nokia handphone. the newspaper and television media have an almost exclusive monopoly, despite some attempts to promote competition.

and every damn government's servers (web or file or print or whatever it is), for good or for bad, runs on windows. the person in charge of the latest mass rapid transit link talked about the "reliable microsoft technology" and how he crashes his pc routinely by clicking too many times, which is quite ridiculous to think of it.
did we have a choice? no. i do wish we had better, more neutral press [which seems to be quite pro-Bush, and anything that happens to the senior minister makes the headlines] and telly, but once you've made the economic choke on the exploitable locals like us, it's not lucrative to enter our market any more.

needless to say, that's what will happen if just about any party came into rule here. how many very small countries are known for liberal rule and are similarly prosperous and orderly?

Re:none of you get it (1)

Yartrebo (690383) | more than 10 years ago | (#7490012)

how many very small countries are known for liberal rule and are similarly prosperous and orderly?

Check out Tuvalu or Belgium. Tuvalu has a grand total of 2 people in their jails, and Belgium has legalized marajuana.

Tuvalu isn't that wealthy, but it is very stable, and Belgium is both wealthy and stable.

Same here now (0)

panxerox (575545) | more than 10 years ago | (#7484189)

If law enforcment can show "intent" ie youve got motive and materials then they can prove "conspiracy to commit" which usally will get you a worse prison term than actually committing a crime.
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