Malaysian hackers may face indefinite detention

The ISA, a holdover from British colonial rule, allows indefinite detention of suspects without trial, and has previously been used against suspected terrorists and political activists.

Malaysia's National Security Council would from time to time look at the effectiveness of the current laws under which hackers can be charged, the agency reported deputy home minister Zainal Abidin Zin as saying. Zainal said the government will not allow hacking to continue to the point where public interests are affected.

Over the New Year weekend, the Web sites of parliament and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia were hacked and in the case of the parliament Web site, had all its data erased.

Malaysia's attitude towards the Internet continues to be ambivalent.

On the one hand, the country recognizes the Internet's importance towards developing a modern knowledge economy, and has set up a high-tech zone called the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) to drive the country's online initiatives.

On the other, conservative politicians from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad downward remain concerned about "negative uses" of the Internet, such as spreading of false rumors. Several Malaysians were jailed on the basis of e-mail messages of this type they had sent during the 1998 political crisis caused by the government's prosecution for corruption of then Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

The e-mails, and the identity of their senders, were passed on to Malaysian police by a compliant ISP (Internet service provider), but Malaysians continued to use the Web as their only way of bypassing the government-controlled print media.

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