Indonesia’s security minister assured the public Thursday that the government would be able to ward off any attempts by hackers to disrupt upcoming national polls, as the elections commission chief warned that a voter database had been targeted by cyber attackers from countries including China and Russia.
Wiranto, the country’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, made the statement the same day when Arief Budiman, chairman of the National Election Commission (KPU), told reporters that a voter database had been targeted by both domestic and foreign hackers, including those with Chinese and Russian IP addresses.
Wiranto told reporters that officials had anticipated such cyber attacks. Manipulating vote counts would not be easy, he said.
“If that could be done, there is no need for elections in the world because they are useless,” he said. “We have made every effort to ensure that does not happen.”
Incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo faces retired Gen. Prabowo Subianto in the April 17 presidential and legislative polls. The electoral fight is a repeat of the 2014 election in which Jokowi narrowly beat Prabowo.
Arief said the electoral commission’s cybersecurity experts had managed to ward off attacks that included attempts to manipulate or modify content of the voter database.
“We have overcome them. Sometimes it only involves defacing, but there have also been attempts to breach the main system,” he said.
“It’s been happening a lot and the attackers can come from anywhere, inside and outside the country,” Arief said.
Responding to reports that hackers from China and Russia were involved in such attacks, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Beijing did not interfere in other nations’ domestic affairs, Bloomberg reported.
A Russian spokesman called the allegations “baseless.”
“We don’t like it when it’s done to us and we never do it ourselves,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday.
Cyber attacks intensifying: analyst
Wasisto Raharjo Jati, a political researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, said cyber attacks targeting the KPU were not new but the intensity had increased since 2014.
“There have been questions about the neutrality of the KPU,” he said. “KPU should be neutral but it has not done its job well so it’s been the target of frequent hacking attempts.”
Prabowo’s camp has alleged that the official electoral roll contained more than 17.5 million voters with the same birth dates and called for the data to be audited.
The Electoral Supervisory Agency has also found dozens of foreigners with Indonesian identification cards being listed on the voter role, despite not being eligible to vote.
Wasisto said that Russian and Chinese IP addresses were used by local hackers, so they were not tracked by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
“The country has a bandwidth network that is faster and so that it is not touched by the law,” he said.
Information technology expert Onno W. Purbo said that even without cyber attacks, KPU’s servers were prone to crashes.
“It doesn’t have to be attacked. If millions of people try to access it, it will overload,” he said. “Imagine 200 million Indonesians trying to find out election results, I can guarantee that their site will be down.”
Onno said Indonesia had a shortage of information technology experts.
“It’s not easy to find network administrators and reliable programmers in Indonesia. There are only a handful of network security experts and network forensic experts,” he said.
Elsewhere, Titi Anggraini, director of the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem), said there was no need for the public to be alarmed about cyber attacks.
“Voting is done manually. Vote counting is also done manually,” she said. “Foreign hacking won’t affect anything.”