Tue, Mar 19, 2019 - Page 9 News List

Chinese, Russian hackers menace poll: Indonesia

By Viriya Singgih, Arys Aditya and Karlis Salna  /  Bloomberg

Chinese and Russian hackers are attacking Indonesia’s voter database 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 cyberincursions they say might be aimed at discrediting the polling process.

Indonesian General Elections Commission Chairman 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 last week.

“Not only every day. Almost every hour,” he said, adding 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-legitimizing the organizer of the election,” he said, referring to the commission, known by its Indonesian acronym KPU.

China does not interfere in other nations’ domestic affairs and is resolutely opposed to hacking, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

Indonesia had not provided any information about the allegations, but China was ready to cooperate in fighting against hacking if evidence existed, it said.

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 Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Russia rejected the allegation of cyberattacks in Indonesia as “baseless,” with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying the country does not 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 on Wednesday.

A spokesman for Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s 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, a former special forces general.

The commission also started an investigation into separate allegations of voter fraud raised by the campaign team for Subianto, more commonly known as Prabowo, Budiman said.

The election pits Prabowo against Widodo.

The probe, which was expected to be completed last week, was to examine whether 17.5 million names have been fraudulently added to the electoral role.

It came after a meeting on Monday last week between the 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 last week 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 about 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 he lost to Widodo. A lawsuit challenging the result of the election was rejected by Indonesia’s Constitutional Court.

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