By SURIYA PATATHAYO,
AT LEAST NINE suspects have been arrested in the ongoing crackdown on alleged hackers who launched concerted attacks on government websites over the past week.
“There will be more arrests,” Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said yesterday, adding the relevant authorities were not lax in tackling the issue.
Prawit instructed Defence Ministry agencies to be better prepared for cyberthreats, while chairing yesterday’s meeting of the Defence Council, ministry spokesman Maj-General Kongcheep Tantrawanit said.
The police yesterday questioned one of the suspects who was handed over by the military, national police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda said, adding a number of other suspects were still under detention by the military.
The suspect was yesterday identified as Natdanai Kongdee, 19, who allegedly took part in a cyberattack on a Royal Thai Police website.
Pol General Dejnarong Suthichanbancha, the deputy national police chief in charge of special affairs, said yesterday that the teenager was accused of violating the Computer Crime Act, being involved with a criminal syndicate, possessing unregistered firearms and illicit drugs. If found guilty, the suspect could face up to 10 years in prison or a maximum fine of Bt20,000, he added.
Police said the suspect was involved in illegal sale of firearms on the Internet.
At a police press conference yesterday, the suspect’s alleged belongings were put on display including two pistols, a rifle, ammunition, three compressed bars of marijuana, and computers and peripherals.
Dejnarong would not confirm about the arrest of nine suspects. He only said that “a number of people” have been arrested in connection with the latest series of cyberattacks and that Natdanai was the first suspect to be charged by police.
A police source said that more than 10 people were involved in the online operation targeting government websites. They were instructed by another group of people about possible targets, the source said.
“The operatives have knowledge about hacking and they often get praise after successfully completing their mission,” the source said.
Chakthip said yesterday that two groups of people were involved in the recent cyberattacks – those giving the orders, and the operatives.
“Those giving the orders are both in and outside the country. Most of the operatives are young people aged between 17 and 20,” he said, adding the latter group appeared to have been “duped” into these actions.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday said it was illegal to break into computer systems of individuals and state agencies.
“This is an offence and against the law in any country. I don’t think authorities anywhere in the world will allow that,” he told reporters at Government House.
Online activists have been protesting against the amendment to the Computer Crime Act, which critics say will vastly expand government control over the Internet and further silence dissent. The “hacktivists” say they have targeted dozens of government websites and threatened more this week unless the law is withdrawn.
The hacktivists leaked personal data of at least 3,000 police officers and exposed the identity card in-formation of 3,000 government officials. The anti-amendment group “Protesters against Single Gateway Internet Firewall #OpSingleGateway”, on its Facebook page, claimed to have hacked more than 20 government websites including the Army’s financial department, the Customs Department, the Foreign Ministry and the traffic police.
Police and military agencies have said that the hackers managed to get only superficial data while sensitive or confidential information were not compromised in the cyberattacks.
An administrator of OpSingleGateway, which is part of the worldwide Anonymous hacker group, told The Nation yesterday the group had no connection with Natdanai, one of the suspects.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the person said police had falsely accused Natdanai as being part of his group. “We don’t have the 19-year-old’s profile,” he said.
However, he also said that its members did not know one another and they communicate with one another via the group’s Web page.
He also rejected a police claim that the operatives were lured into the group. “No one is forced or deceived to join,” the administrator said.
In a related development, Tourism and Sports Ministry permanent secretary Pongpanu Svetarundra yesterday filed a complaint at Bangkok’s Nang Lerng Police Station against the Anonymous hacker group for attacking the agency’s website on Friday.
He said although no sensitive data was compromised, the ministry’s website could not be updated during the cyberattack.