Indonesia plans to expel 103 Taiwanese caught in cybersecurity crackdown

Tria Dianti
Indonesia plans to expel 103 Taiwanese caught in cybersecurity crackdown Members of the Bali Becik task force stand guard over Taiwanese citizens who were arrested in connection with alleged cybercrime in Bali, Indonesia, in this photo released June 28, 2024.
Handout/Indonesia Immigration Directorate

Indonesian authorities said Friday that they had arrested scores of Taiwanese citizens in Bali this week for suspected roles in online scams and would be deporting them for misusing their visas. 

Slapping cybercrime charges on the 103 suspects from Taiwan, who were taken into custody Wednesday, would be difficult because they allegedly confessed that their victims were outside Indonesia’s jurisdiction, immigration officials said. 

“The foreign nationals did not arrive in Indonesia simultaneously but through several airports,” Saffar Muhammad Godam, Indonesia’s director of Immigration Supervision and Enforcement, told reporters on Friday.

“Their activities are suspected to be inconsistent with their visa purposes, allegedly conducting cybercrimes targeting individuals outside Indonesia, including Malaysia.”

He said the 91 men and 12 women were being held at the immigration detention center in Denpasar before deportation.

Indonesian authorities said the detainees were not linked to a recent cyberattack by the Lock Bit ransomware group. 

The group hacked Indonesia’s national data center on Monday and demanded a ransom of U.S. $8 million (130 billion rupiah) for the release of encrypted data, Communications and Information Minister Budi Arie Setiadi said. Government officials refused to pay.

Prior to the arrests of the Taiwanese, authorities launched a surveillance operation targeting the foreign citizens and seized 450 mobile phones, dozens of laptops, printers, power supplies, routers and identity cards.

Indonesian immigration officials show passports and mobile devices seized while Taiwanese citizens arrested during a cybersecurity investigation are presented at a news conference in Bali, June 28, 2024. [Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP]

Beginning at 10 a.m. Wednesday, an immigration team conducted covert surveillance on a villa in Marga, a district in Tabanan regency, according to Godam. 

At 2 p.m., the team received information about foreign citizens’ activities at the location. Three hours later, 103 foreigners were detained.

“At 6 p.m. the Bali Becik task force secured all the foreign nationals along with preliminary evidence found at the location. They are temporarily placed at the Denpasar immigration detention house,” Godam said.

“I reiterate to all foreign nationals in Indonesia, especially in Bali, always comply with the prevailing regulations and laws,” he said.

Mepi Lin, a staff member of the Taipei Economic and Trade Office (TETO) representing the Republic of China in Indonesia – acknowledged the report. The Republic of China is the official name for Taiwan.

“It was handled by the TETO Surabaya division. Previously, there were only about 14 Taiwanese nationals. However, according to the latest data, it appears that many more Taiwanese nationals are involved,” she said.

Common phenomenon

Cybersecurity analyst Alfons Tanujaya, with computer security firm Vaksincom, said arrests of scammers were an increasingly prevalent global phenomenon.

“It’s not just in Indonesia – scamming often targets certain countries while being based in another,” he told BenarNews.

“This is common. For instance, Cambodia has many scammers,” he said, adding that the nation has a negative reputation as a haven for gambling operators.

Alfons said scammers typically operate from foreign countries to avoid severe penalties. 

“If they were in their own country, the laws would severely punish them, but in another country, at worst, they get deported,” he said.

Taiwanese citizens are led out following a news conference at an immigration detention center in Bali, June 28, 2024. [Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP]

Ardi Sutedja, a cybersecurity analyst and chairman of the Indonesia Cyber Security Forum, highlighted the persistent issue of cybercrime, attributing it to the government’s lack of action.

“Evidently, tourists arriving in Indonesia often lack clear origins and purposes, potentially resulting in a criminal influx due to the absence of a screening mechanism,” he told BenarNews.

“It’s time for the government to wake up and implement restrictions – targeting mass tourism should not come at the expense of declining visitor quality,” he said. “We neglect to filter them. When we travel abroad, we face stringent questioning, even about our savings.” 

The challenge, Ardi said, lies in the overlapping regulations that inadvertently threaten Indonesia’s national cybersecurity. 

“We need to profile visitors, but Indonesia lacks the human resources for this. Hence, the government is encouraged to collaborate with community organizations. For instance, in Bali, involving local security groups like Pecalang,” he said.


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