Jakarta Cyber-attacks Touted as Political Plot

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A government ministry in Jakarta has suggested that a recent spate of cyber-attacks against its critics could be an attempt by a third party to turn public opinion against the government. 

This month, the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SafeNet) recorded six cyber-attacks against high-risk groups such as journalists, academics, and activists. 

One attack was on Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist from the University of Indonesia, whose Twitter account was hacked. In other incidents, cyber-criminals targeted the websites of two major media outlets, Tempo.co and Tirto.id, defacing their websites. 

Speaking during a Ngobrol @Tempo online discussion on Thursday, August 2, SafeNet executive director Damar Juniarto said that the August cyber-attacks were directed at figures who had criticized the Jakarta government’s handling of the COVID-19 health crisis. 

Juniarto added that similar digital attacks had been carried out previously on people, usually activists or academics, who had criticized Papuan issues and the controversial revision of the Corruption Eradication Commission Law in 2019.

The Communications and Information Ministry has urged the public not to attribute the August cyber-attacks to the Jakarta government. A ministry spokesperson said that there is no evidence to suggest that the government is responsible for these crimes.

“Don't be too quick and premature in accusing someone of being behind it without any evidence, this could be a third party who wants to create a confrontation. Who can prove that without any data?" said Semuel Abrijani Pangerapan, director-general of application and informatics at the ministry.

He added, “Let’s work together because someone may do that to make a fight between us, between the government and civil group coalitions."

Speaking during the same Ngobrol @Tempo online discussion on Thursday, August 27, the minister said that the hacking of news media outlets and social media accounts was a global phenomenon and that such crimes could be committed by anyone, anywhere. 

"We have digital forensic experts if anyone needs our help to investigate," Semuel offered. 

Commenting after the hack on Tempo.co, Chief Editor Setri Yasra told The Jakarta Post, “We condemn anyone who tries to interfere with the work of the media. Press products are not always perfect, but we have a controlled mechanism, we have a press council to go to."

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