JAKARTA, Indonesia – The Indonesian government has reportedly been found to be using a decoy server in Sydney, to house information collected through intelligence operations.
An Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) investigation found that the Indonesian government was using FinFisher, a spyware to gather information on some citizens.
Bill Marzcak from the University of Toronto said the information was directed to an Australian server called Global Switch, before being sent to Indonesia.
“When a computer or phone is infected with FinFisher spyware, the spyware has to communicate back to the government that infected it,” he said.
The spyware gains access to passwords which the user types into their phone or computer, as well as any files that are stored on the device.
“The spyware [also] allows the government operator to turn on the microphone or the webcam of the computer or the phone,” Marzcak said.
The spyware is sold to governments across the world and is promoted as a way to help “identify, locate and convict serious criminals.”
The investigation found that Indonesia is one of the largest customers of FinFisher.
“We were able to identify one specific government user inside Indonesia, the National Crypto Agency,” Marzcak said.
Evidence suggests that there are several more government users of the spyware program.
Whilst the spyware can be used to monitor terrorism and criminal behavior, human rights groups are concerned it may be used against activists.
An Indonesian intelligence report from last year is alleged to list a number of West Papuan independence activists, along with their personal weaknesses.
Several of these individuals are students and Christian leaders. The ABC alleges that the report lists its aim as “being to suppress and divide the movement”.
Adam Molnar, a Criminologist at Deakin Univesity said that this was nothing new in the world of the internet and security.
“I think you can say on the whole that the use of sort of cyber offensive capabilities is proliferating massively. Over 60 countries right now have or are developing these capacities,” he said.
The use of spyware and technology of this nature involving Australia and Indonesia is also not an isolated incident.
In 2014, a document released by Edward Snowden revealed the Australian government had undertaken widespread data collection in Indonesia.
The Australian government has also previously been accused of monitoring the mobile phones of former President Susilio Bambang Yudhoyno, his wife and other close political associates.
Troubling signs for the future?
The reach of spyware and data collection is spreading around the world as governments utilize it to monitor political activists.
“I think I would have felt far less concerned if the spyware was only turning up in countries which had robust rule of law and oversight of intelligence and law enforcement,” Marzcak said.
The use of the software has spread to a number of countries that have questionable human rights records, including Kenya, Angola and Saudi Arabia.
The spread of this software marks a change in the availability of the spyware and tools to gather intelligence against a range of individuals and countries.
“As early as a few years ago it was not possible for governments like Angola, for example, to get this sophisticated spyware capability. It simply wasn’t available,” Marczak said.
“It opens up the field of sophisticated surveillance to anybody with a chequebook.”– Rappler.com
(Lock on digital screen image by Shutterstock)
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