Thai university students arrested for hacking have been ordered to pay for their crime by serving at the very Web site they defaced.

According to the daily newspaper The Bangkok Post, the ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) ministry's portal was breached recently.

The hackers had last month planted a bogus news flash on the ministry's site, detailing plans to set up a new club to promote prostitution and pornography. The message was removed after a few hours and the intrusion traced to a local university.

As punishment, these undergraduates were ordered to work on the ministry's Web site for a certain period, Surapong Suebwonglee, Thailand's ICT minister, was quoted was saying.

Surapong was speaking to local reporters on the importance of information security and the need for a new body to spearhead the country's e-government efforts, which are already falling behind schedule, he said.

He said in the report the government could set up a new branch to push for e-government projects across all its ministries and departments.

"Instead of having an ad-hoc committee with volunteers to run e-government projects, we might set up an agency to manage them,'' Surapong was quoted as saying.

Thai authorities have previously announced an IT roadmap requiring all government agencies to build a Web site by April, provide interactive services by May and simple transaction services such as bill payments by end year, the report said.

However, he was quick to admit most government bodies are behind time and some of them do not even have a Web presence, the report added.

Other projects Surapong hoped to spearhead include the development of smart identification cards for Thai citizens, the establishment of a call centre to handle e-government-related queries and the deployment of a government-wide enterprise resource planning system.
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