Hackers penetrated the ASX Website on Saturday night causing an outage of four hours and the Federal government says it may be powerless to penalise the culprits.
An ASX spokesperson said the anonymous intruder, nicknamed "Prosthetic", broke into the exchange's public information Website around 7pm on Saturday night. The intruder was on the site for 30 minutes, leaving it littered with banner messages reading "Prosthetic owns the ASX".
The spokesperson said the hacker did not interfere with any share figures or trading systems, and did not cause any major disruption to the exchange "apart from ruining our Saturday night."
The ASX took down the public information Website down at 7:30pm, removed the banner messages, and restored it just after 11pm, the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said investigations were underway to locate the source of the attack. However, the spokesperson said the ASX was unsure of what crime the hacker would be charged with if apprehended.
A spokesperson for Senator Vanstone, Federal Minister for Justice and Customs, said no existing federal laws prohibited hacking crimes of this type.
Senator Vanstone released the "Model Criminal Code Discussion Paper" two weeks ago, a document which suggested crimes conducted via the Internet incur the same punitive charges as conventional crimes.
However, the Model Criminal Code officers' committee, the Commonwealth and State Advisory Board which produced the paper, said it would receive feedback on the paper from Australian legal bodies until the end of March 2000. The second draft of the paper would be sent to Federal Government bodies "by the end of the year", with Federal anti-hacking and other internet legislation likely to be finalised in parliament early next year.
The government spokesperson said it was not possible to speculate as which offence the ASX hacker might be charged with, or convicted of, under the new legislation.
"It depends on the intent of the attack. If the intent was sabotage, than it would be treated as sabotage," the spokesperson said.
The ASX expects site traffic, which tripled in the last month with the addition of real live company and shareprice information, will not be affected by reports of the hack.