Hong Kong police have arrested a second suspect over a series of abnormal push notifications from the news app of local media broadcaster TVB on 3 May 2022. The broadcaster said in a statement released on 19 July 2022 that it was informed by the police that a 19-year-old student was arrested for access to a computer with dishonest intent on 13 July 2022, which is an offence punishable by up to five years in jail.

Further investigation of the case will be carried out by the police and TVB will fully cooperate in this, according to the statement. The suspect has been granted bail pending further investigation. The police said on 19 July 2022 he was required to report back to police later this month.  

Online sentiments analysed

Social monitoring company CARMA analysed that there was a total of 49.2% negative mentions from the last 7 days. The volume of mentions peaked on 19 July 2022, right after the second man was arrested over the release of unauthorised push notifications from the TVB app.

Most netizens criticised the two men involved in the incident for spreading false information. Many were confused about the motive behind such action, with some questioned if it was really an act of mischief, according to Charles Cheung, general manager of CARMA.

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Social listening firm Tocanan also revealed that the volumn of mentions peaked on 19 July 2022, with 3% of negative sentiments and 97% of neutral sentiments over the past week. 


Concerns of internet security raised

The incident has raised concerns over internal security of the broadcaster. Francis Fong, honorary chairman of Hong Kong Association of Interactive esb电竞数据投注电脑版 told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that it is not uncommon to see media organisations giving administrative access to junior employees as to send out news or push notifications in a timely manner.   However, Fong believed that to avoid similar incidents to occur in the future, several measures have to be taken.

"The senior colleagues or executives should approve all push notifications before they go public, or the link of accessing the mobile app system should be attached to a VPN system, where employees can only access the link with computers in the company instead of anywhere else," Fong added. 

Agreeing with Fong is Wong Ho Wa, local data scientist and founder of open government data community g0vhk, said: "the link to access the mobile app push system leaked in a push notification, and it went viral across local forums. This is totally unacceptable."

Wong added that further approval by senior executives at the company is needed to ensure accurate and true information is being published, "Assume the abnormal push notifications were just part of a testing trial, they should be pushed in a separate environment rather than the same system for breaking news push notifications."

The arrest came after the police also arrested a 27-year-old TVB employee over the same offence in May this year. He was caught just hours after the incident.

Earlier in May, TVB reported to the police that a total of 23 consecutive push notifications involving abnormal content were sent out via TVB NEWS mobile app 21 minutes after midnight.

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The spokesperson said, "TVB has also carried out multifaceted investigations and has immediately strengthened system monitoring to prevent the reoccurrence of similar incidents. Police officers of the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau collected evidence in concerned offices at TVB City today in the afternoon. TVB will fully cooperate with the police for further in-depth investigations."

The push notifications contained content irrelevant to any news. For example, some of the pushes were "hi", "hihi", "test" and "yooooooo". Some other pushes also contained content in simplified Chinese, including "absolutely do not allow anyone to challenge the 'one country, two systems' principle and bottom line", "Lee Ka-chiu to meet reporters", and "the principle of patriots administering Hong Kong".

At the same time, TVB's website was down and it kept displaying "There is no relevant news content at present." The site returned to normal at about 12:30am.  The Standard  said TVB's wireless information technology department had launched an investigation. It also followed up on whether its system was hacked.

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