Hackers have defaced more than 12 government websites in Indonesia following the arrest of an alleged hacker in East Java this month. Analysts say weak security and strong solidarity among underground hacker networks is at the heart of the problem.
In one of the world’s most social-media savvy countries, the online group ‘Anonymous Indonesia’ has been drawing attention in recent days.
In a matter of hours, the group brought down the websites of seven government ministries and that of the national police.
Instead of the official pages, web users were greeted by a cloaked figure alongside the catchphrase: ‘No Army Can Stop an Idea.’
The coordinated hack is seen as retaliation for the arrest of 22-year-old Wildan Yani Ashari, who hacked the president’s website earlier in January.
A social media lecturer who focuses on underground online movements, Donny Bu says solidarity among Indonesian hackers is strong.
“Even if you don’t know the other hackers, if one of them is from the underground community, or an underground hacker is arrested and becomes quote unquote ‘famous,’ on the media, then the others, underground community, will use that issue to voice their statement,” he said.
Anonymous Indonesia and its supporters have rallied against his arrest on twitter and other social media networks.
They say it is unfair that Wildan faces up to five years in prison when corrupt officials regularly walk away with much lighter sentences.
An employee of an Internet cafe in East Java, the 22-year-old is being charged under the 2008 Information and Electronic Transaction Law.
Although critics say the penalty for what is essentially a prank is too harsh, Indonesia’s Communications Minister Tifatul Sembiring said Wildan must be appropriately punished.
“They [Indonesian online community] try to compare for the punishment for the corrupters and punishment for the hacker… It is a serious problem because, you know, if the policeman or the court not punish this guy maybe other hackers will try to do something that will disturb our Internet network,” he explained.
The minister says there were 36.6 million incidents of hacking against the government in 2012.
But, cyber security analysts say that most of these incidents are cases of ‘online graffiti’, pranks committed by juveniles.
Few are involved in more serious crimes such as e-commerce fraud, says cyber analyst Budi Rahardjo.
“Hacking in Indonesia is common, just like in other places in the world, mostly done by youngsters trying to establish themselves," he added. "Most of them just hack websites just to show themselves but, other than that, they don’t do other harms.”
Rahardjo admits that many government websites are not secure and an easy target for low-skilled hackers.
However, he says, these days you do not have to be a sophisticated programmer or skillful hacker to paralyze government websites.
Communications Minister Tifatul Sembiring says he has a team working 24 hours a day to secure the firewalls of government sites.