The official website of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was given a brief makeover on Thursday, courtesy of the hacktivist collective Anonymous. Rather than official photos and text, visitors to the site were greeted with a white Guy Fawkes mask – a tribute to the failed British revolutionary and a symbol of the group’s often anti-establishment causes – as well as a banner that sarcastically stated “It’s great to be Singaporean today.”
They cyberattack followed a week of tough talk from Lee, who publicly vowed to take action against members of Anonymous.
“Our IT network, the Internet, our communications have become an essential part of our business and our lives now. If your network is down, you can’t connect, you can’t work, you can’t keep in touch with what’s happening in the world, with what’s happening whether if it’s in your business, your family, or in Singapore,” Lee told Singaporean newspaper Today. “When somebody threatens to do harm to it, we take that very seriously and we will spare no effort to try and track down the culprits and if we can find him, we will bring him to justice and he will be dealt with severely.”
Lee, calling out the global network of hacktivists, added: “You may think you’re anonymous – we will make the extra effort to find out who you are.”
Recently, Anonymous has been ramping up activity in Southeast Asia, hacking websites run by the Philippine government and calling for mass demonstrations against government corruption.
An October 31 video from the group promised that it would “go to war” with the Singaporean government over new Internet regulations that were introduced in July. The new rules require websites that post news or current events-related articles to post a $40,000 bond – a difficult feat for independent bloggers. With tight control over traditional media, many Singaporeans rely on alternative sources from the blogosphere.
The affected sites must also agree to take down any content that is “objectionable on the grounds of public interest, public morality, public order, public security, national harmony, or otherwise prohibited by applicable Singapore laws” within 24 hours of being notified.
“Gay-rights groups feel at risk, since ‘content that advocates homosexuality or lesbianism’ is specifically banned under Singapore media laws,” said Variety.
The Straits Times newspaper, Singapore’s most popular, also had its website hacked on November 1. A post left on the site by Anonymous hackers demanded an apology for a scathing blog post directed at the group.
Last Saturday, 19 of Singapore’s government-affiliated websites were taken down – likely by targeted DDOS attacks, which are designed to knock a site offline by overwhelming it with traffic.
Singapore has pledged more than $100 million over the next five years to increase cybersecurity.