Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cyber attacks on Indonesian gov’t critics reproofed

Cyber attacks on Indonesian gov’t critics reproofed

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Amnesty International Indonesia has recorded at least 35 cases of alleged intimidation and digital attacks on government critics since February last year. PIXABAY

Cyber attacks on Indonesian gov’t critics reproofed

Civil groups have condemned recent cyberattacks on the websites of two prominent institutions and the social media account of a scientist, all of whom have been critical of the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, calling them a threat to democracy and freedom of speech.

The Twitter account of Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia (UI), was reportedly hacked on Wednesday. The handle, @drpriono, posted pictures that aimed to damage Pandu’s reputation. The account was secured on Sunday and the pictures deleted.

Prior to the incident, Pandu slammed a potential Covid-19 vaccine developed by Surabaya-based Airlangga University, saying it had yet to undergo clinical trials.

He also criticised the university for not reporting its findings to the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) and handing it over to the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) and the Indonesian Army instead.

Pandu has been voicing his concerns about the government’s Covid-19-related policies, such as tourism promotion amid the pandemic, campaigns for a “new normal” and the ineffectiveness of rapid antibody tests that have become a requirement for travelling.

On Thursday midnight, news website tempo.co, which is a part of Tempo Media Group that also publishes Koran Tempo daily and Tempo weekly magazine, was hacked until early on Friday. The media group’s pandemic reported has included criticism against government policies.

At 12:30am, the homepage turned black and played “Gugur Bunga” (Fallen Flowers), a patriotic song honouring fallen wartime heroes, for 15 minutes.

The screen displayed the message: “Stop Hoaxes, Don’t lie to the Indonesian People, Return to true journalistic ethics [and] obey the Press Council. Don’t [bow down to] people who pay. Deface By @xdigeeembok.”

Tempo.co chief editor Setri Yasra said the attack was an attempt to silence the media.

Setri told The Jakarta Post on Friday: “We condemn anyone who tries to interfere with the work of the press. Press products are not always perfect, but we have a controlled mechanism, we have a press council to go to.”

The website of a research group that is also known to be critical of the government’s coronavirus policies, the Centre for Indonesia’s Strategic Development Initiatives (CISDI), was hacked for three days starting on Wednesday.

The attack caused the institution to lose important documents on its website, cisdi.org.

The Civil Society Coalition, whose members include Amnesty International Indonesia, the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) and the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet), demanded that the government and law enforcement bodies transparently investigate the cyberattacks and punished the perpetrators.

Amnesty International Indonesia has recorded at least 35 cases of alleged intimidation and digital attacks on government critics since February last year.

YLBHI chairwoman Asfinawati told the Post on Saturday: “The government must explain and share their information to the public – whether the attacks against the critics have anything to do with the government – because the public doesn’t have the tools or access [for an investigation].”

Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said if the hackers were found to be part of the State, there should be no impunity.

Usman said in a written statement on Friday: “Silencing criticism is a violation of human rights. The people’s rights to express their opinion is guaranteed in both Indonesia’s Constitution and international human rights laws.”

Minister of Communications and Information Johnny G Plate said labelling the cyberattacks as “silencing criticism” was a serious, groundless accusation.

He told the Post on Saturday: “Don’t make accusations based on assumptions. Cybercrime happens every minute on any digital platform, including digital businesses and government websites, not just tempo.co or Pandu Riono’s account.”

Johnny said the ministry was ready to help but expected the victims to be proactive in reporting their case to the ministry or to the police, so the latter could move quickly to track down the perpetrators. In addition, the ministry and the National Cyber and Encryption Agency (BSSN) could audit the security system of the hacked parties.

He said: “The ministry cannot take action if there is no report. For example, we can’t just go into Tempo’s system without permission, right?”

The ministry would like to evaluate and improve Tempo’s cybersecurity system, he said.

“A strong system won’t be easily breached. The rising number of cyberattacks is a reminder for us to improve our security system and protect our digital space,” Johnny said.



  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Ministry mulls ASEAN+3 travel bubble

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to launch a travel bubble allowing transit between Cambodia and 12 other regional countries in a bid to resuscitate the tourism sector amid crushing impact of the ongoing spread of Covid-19, Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • Quarantine site in north Phnom Penh inaugurated

    A four-building quarantine centre in Phnom Penh’s Prek Pnov district was formally inaugurated on January 6. The centre can house up to 500 people, according to Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng. At the inauguration ceremony, Sreng said the municipal hall had cooperated with the Ministry

  • More than 5K workers rush from Thailand amid outbreak

    Following the recent outbreak of Covid-19 in Thailand’s Samut Sakhon province, Cambodian migrants working in Thailand were gripped by worry over the situation and many rushed to return to their homeland. Over the past 10 days, more than 5,000 migrant workers have returned from Thailand through

  • ‘Beware of WhatsApp fraudsters’

    The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications warned members of the public who use WhatsApp to vigilantly guard against a new trick employed by hackers that involves the use of six-digit codes sent to potential victims via the popular messaging app. The ministry said hackers could