Indonesia says election targeted by foreign hackers


JAKARTA • Chinese and Russian hackers are attacking Indonesia’s voter data base in a bid to disrupt the country’s upcoming presidential election, according to a senior election commission official.

As Indonesia prepares for simultaneous presidential and legislative polls on April 17, authorities are facing a wave of cyber incursions they say may be aimed at discrediting the polling process.

The head of Indonesia’s General Elections Commission, Arief Budiman, said some of the attacks originated in Russia and China, and include attempts to “manipulate or modify” content as well as to create so-called ghost voters, or fake voter identities.

“They try to hack our system,” Budiman said in an interview in Jakarta on Tuesday.

“Not only every day. Almost every hour,” he said, adding that it was unclear whether the motive was “to disrupt Indonesia” or to help one of the candidates win.

“Voter behavior can be changed by de-legitimising the organiser of the election,” he said, referring to the General Elections Commission (KPU).

The latest developments come in the wake of a crackdown in Indonesia on so-called fake news and the use of social media to influence voters.

And it follows allegations of Russian interference the 2016 US presidential election, which was won by Donald Trump.

Russia rejected the allegation of cyber attacks in Indonesia as “baseless”, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying the country doesn’t meddle. Russia “has no intention of interfering in any affairs of other states, especially in electoral processes. We don’t like it when it’s done to us and we never do it ourselves”, Peskov told reporters yesterday.

A spokesman for President Joko Widodo’s (Jokowi) campaign declined to comment on allegations of attempted hacking of the KPU database, as well allegations of voter fraud brought by the campaign team for presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto.

The commission also started an investigation into separate allegations of voter fraud raised by the campaign team for Prabowo, Budiman said. The election pits Prabowo, a former special forces general, against the incumbent Jokowi.

The probe, which is expected to be completed this week, will examine whether 17.5 million names have been fraudulently added to the electoral role. It comes after a meeting on Monday between the election commission and Hashim Djojohadikusumo, Prabowo’s brother and the media and communications director for his campaign.

“We’ve discovered 17.5 million dubious names on the official voter role,” Djojohadikusumo said on Tuesday in a text message. He said there was a “massive number of other anomalies”.

The latest allegations of voter fraud follow similar complaints made last year regarding the existence 25 million ghost voters. An investigation later showed that there were some 700,000 potential fake voters, Budiman said.

There were also allegations of voter fraud made by the Prabowo camp following the 2014 presidential election which the former general lost to Jokowi. A lawsuit challenging the result of the election was rejected by the Constitutional Court.

“What we see now is some people, some parties, trying to create distrust of the KPU, because it will lead to distrust of the process and result, and eventually trigger conflicts,” Budiman said on Tuesday. — Bloomberg