Malaysian Military Network Targeted in Cyberattack

Noah Lee
Kuala Lumpur
2020-12-29
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Malaysian Military Network Targeted in Cyberattack Gen. Affendi Buang, chief of the Malaysian Armed Forces, speaks to reporters after an event at the Defense Ministry in Kuala Lumpur, Dec. 18, 2020.
Courtesy of Malaysia Armed Forces

The Malaysian Armed Forces announced Tuesday that its data network had been targeted in a cyberattack, but said the intrusion failed to disrupt operations or access classified information.

The attack may have originated in neighboring Indonesia amid an ongoing row over a parody of its national anthem that was evidently uploaded in Malaysia, a defense official and a cyber security expert both told BenarNews.

“There has been a cyberattack carried out against our data network,” Malaysian military chief Gen. Affendi Buang said Tuesday, adding the attack had been detected and foiled by the armed forces’ Cyber and Electromagnetic Defense Division (CEDD) and Cyber Defense Operation Center (CDOC).

“As soon as the attack started, CEDD and CDOC implemented data traffic segregation for the purpose of obscuring the actual location of the classified data and thus protecting the network targeted by hackers,” he said in a statement.

The attack had no effect on the operation of the military’s website, but it accessed areas outside the armed forces’ network, he said.

The military was aware of “ongoing cyberattack-attempts on the information network owned by the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces,” and would keep monitoring and defending strategic defense communications, the statement said.

The attempt on Malaysia’s defense cyber network occurred days after a satirical video lampooned the Indonesian national anthem, Indonesia Raya, went viral and ignited an online tussle between citizens of the neighboring countries.

Authorities were still investigating the origin of the online hack, but initial evidence pointed to Indonesia, sources told BenarNews.

“Our indicators point to Indonesia but the CDOC noted that it could be done using a dummy IP, to make it appear to be from Indonesia,” said a defense intelligence official involved in containing the attack, referring to an Internet Protocol address.

“That is why CDOC allowed the hackers to access a specialized server, so that they can be traced. So far the detailed report from the digital footprint is not available yet,” said the source, who was not authorized to talk to the public and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The CDOC had detected threats soon after parody on the Indonesian anthem went viral, prompting it to prepare a dummy server in case of an attempt on the defense data network, the official said.

A call had been made for Indonesian hackers to deface Malaysian websites, amid anger over the anthem parody, Malaysian cyber security expert Razwan Mokhtar told BenarNews.

“Many websites had since been defaced because of this announcement,” he said, adding that a hacker who made the call had also posted a list of defaced Malaysian websites online.

Authorities have taken seriously the ridiculing of Indonesia’s national anthem, which was allegedly done by a Malaysian citizen.

Police have opened an investigation into the incident under the country’s Sedition Act, Police Inspector-General Abdul Hamid Bador told local media. The probe was being carried out with the cooperation of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.

“If found guilty under the law, the individual responsible can be jailed for five years. We will never compromise with any irresponsible individual, and a stern action would be taken based on existing laws,” he said, as quoted by Utusan Malaysia.

On Sunday, Malaysia’s Embassy in Jakarta issued a statement condemning the act, and stressed that authorities were working on a probe into the viral video clip.

“If it is found that the video was uploaded by a Malaysian citizen, a strong action will be taken under the law,” the government-run Bernama news agency quoted the embassy as saying in a statement.

Asked Monday to comment on the flap, Teuku Faizasyah, a spokesman for the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, said the government would wait for investigation results from the Malaysian police.

Ronna Nirmala in Jakarta contributed to this report.

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