Asia Defense

Indonesia’s Cyber Challenge in Focus with Looming 2019 Elections

Military chief’s recent comments highlights some of the issues security forces are likely to face and ways they need to address them.

Indonesia’s Cyber Challenge in Focus with Looming 2019 Elections
Credit: Markus Spitske on Unsplash

Late last week, Indonesia’s military chief issued a call to the country’s security forces to upgrade their digital skills to confront a range of challenges. His comments were just the latest in a long string of similar statements issued by Indonesian officials highlighting the country’s cyber challenges as it prepares to head into presidential elections in April.

As I have noted before in these pages, along with other Asian states, Indonesia has been taking steps to confront some of the cyber challenges it has long faced. Indonesia is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to cyber attacks, and the challenge has grown at an alarming rate over the past few years including under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, with the full spectrum of challenges including not just national security or e-commerce, but also in the distribution of so-called fake news and even issues related to e-voting.

Indonesia has taken a series of steps to address these issues, with a case in point being the creation of the new National Cyber Encryption Agency (BSSN) back in 2017, which has been added to the list of organizations helping the Southeast Asian state contend with these challenges. Nonetheless, even officials themselves recognize that the country has a long way to go in order to fully confront these problems.

This week, Indonesia’s cyber challenge was in the headlines again following remarks issued by Indonesia’s military (TNI) commander Hadi Tjahjanto. Per Indonesian news agency ANTARA, Tjahjanto told members of the military police corps at an air force base in East Jakarta on February 8 to upgrade their digital skills to deal with the increasing trend of cybercrimes in the country on Internet-based media.

Tjahjanto’s comments are just the latest in a series of calls by Indonesian officials about the necessity for the country’s security forces to enhance their capabilities to address the rising cyber threats to the country. The cyber dimension of Indonesia’s security challenges has been in the headlines even more so of late because of the runup to the country’s presidential elections set to take place in April, and increasing worries about threats such as fake news.

A case in point of late has been efforts by the government to address fake accounts that have been using the name of the Indonesian military. Some of those accounts have begun to be cracked down in the name of illegal use of the Indonesian military’s name for their activities, which include threatening segments of the population such as leftists or communists – a particularly sensitive point for the country given its past experiences on this front.

Tjahjanto’s remarks did hone in on the threat of fake news and hoaxes somewhat, noting the importance of security forces to safeguard themselves from these challenges as well as to preserve the reputation of the Indonesian military. But at the same time, as Tjahjanto himself knows, addressing these issues is much easier said than done.