Indonesian polls under attack by foreign hackers: Official

JAKARTA • 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, the authorities are facing a wave of cyber incursions they say may be aimed at discrediting the polling process.

According to the head of Indonesia's General Elections Commission (KPU), Mr Arief Budiman, 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," said Mr Arief in an interview in Jakarta on Tuesday.

"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 behaviour can be changed by de-legitimising the organiser of the election," he said, referring to the KPU.

Both China and Russia yesterday denied the accusation.

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. It follows allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 United States presidential election, which was won by Mr Donald Trump.

The commission also started an investigation into separate allegations of voter fraud raised by the campaign team for presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, said Mr Arief. The election pits Mr Prabowo, a former special forces general, against the incumbent, President Joko Widodo.

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 held on Monday between the election commission and Mr Hashim Djojohadikusumo, Mr 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," Mr Hashim said on Tuesday.

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 of 25 million ghost voters.

An investigation later showed that there were some 700,000 fake voters, Mr Arief said.

The commission also recently met representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google to try to ensure that social media platforms were not used to spread hoaxes and manipulate the political process.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2019, with the headline 'Indonesian polls under attack by foreign hackers: Official'. Print Edition | Subscribe