Asia Defense

Does Indonesia Need a New Cyber Agency?

Jokowi casts doubts on whether the country will set up an agency to coordinate cyber defense.

Remarks by Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo this week have raised questions as to the development of a new agency to coordinate the country’s defense in the cyber domain.

Indonesia has long been one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to cyber attacks. For much of 2013 and 2014, Akamai Technologies, a U.S.-based firm, found that Indonesia consistently ranked as one of the world’s top three sources of cyber attacks. This June, then Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said that cyber attacks in Indonesia had risen 33 percent in 2015 compared to the previous year, with 54.5 percent of the attacks aimed at e-commerce related websites.

In reaction to this, Indonesian officials have been considering various options including the setting up of a National Cyber Agency (NCA), a strong body that would marshal an integrated cyber defense (See: “Indonesia’s Cyber Challenge Under Jokowi”). But as of June this year, Agus Barnas, the national cyberspace desk head at the Office of Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs, had said that there was no detailed plan in place yet for the agency’s establishment, citing “various issues” raised about whether a new agency was needed.

This week, media accounts of Jokowi’s remarks at a cabinet meeting at the State Palace seemed to cast doubt on whether the NCA would be established. Though expressing alarm at the drastic increase in cybercrime over the past few years, Jokowi said that Indonesia should focus on expanding or consolidating units at ministries or institutions with cybersecurity functions, rather than starting from scratch or trying to form new bodies.

“To deal with cybersecurity issues, we do not need to form a new institution, or start from zero. We can expand or consolidate units at ministries or institutions that have cybersecurity functions,” he said according to The Jakarta Post.

Jokowi did not elaborate on his reasons for believing that this would be the preferred course. But as I emphasized in my earlier piece, there is no shortage of obstacles to setting up a new agency, from bureaucratic competition to interagency coordination to the lack of human resources, technology and funding.