Indonesian elections not at risk from cyber attacks – really?

A worker checks ballot papers printed for upcoming Indonesian presidential election at a factory in Jakarta, January 20, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/File Photo

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Presidential and legislative polls in Indonesia next month are not at risk of disruption from cyber attacks, the head of the election commission said on Wednesday, even though regular hacking attempts had been detected on the agency’s website.

Arief Budiman, head of the National Election Commission (KPU), was earlier cited in a media report as saying Chinese and Russian hackers were attacking Indonesia’s voter database “to manipulate and modify” content and create ghost voters. 

“The election process will not be disturbed because we can handle (the attacks),” he told journalists at a briefing.

“This is not about China or Russia,” he said, adding that cyber attacks had originated both locally and from abroad.

A KPU source with knowledge of the matter said the voter database had been subject to “probing” attacks from IP addresses originating in several countries, not just China and Russia.

Communications Minister Rudiantara previously told Reuters that servers and websites in Indonesia are regularly targeted by cyber attacks originating overseas, but that many were in fact local hackers masked by a virtual private network.

President Joko Widodo is running for re-election against ex-military general Prabowo Subianto, and much of the candidates’ campaigns are being waged online and on social media. 

Election watchdogs have reported a spike in fake news during the campaign amid raised concerns about the impact in a country of avid social media users.

Both camps have denied spreading misinformation and using so-called “buzzer teams“, which a Reuters investigation found are being used to create content aimed at influencing voters.

(Reporting by Jessica Damiana and Fanny Potkin; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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