Indonesia must halt the import and use of highly invasive spyware from Israel and elsewhere, Southeast Asian MPs say


Indonesia must halt the import and use of highly invasive spyware from Israel and elsewhere, Southeast Asian MPs say

JAKARTA – Indonesian government agencies’ purchase and deployment of highly invasive spyware from Israel-based surveillance companies – among others – must be investigated and halted, parliamentarians from Southeast Asia said today.

We are deeply disturbed by reports that Indonesia has recently imported and utilized a wide variety of highly invasive spyware and surveillance equipment, especially as digital attacks against critical groups have become increasingly widespread,” ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) co-chair and former Malaysian member of parliament Charles Santiago said today. 

On 2 May, Amnesty International – in collaboration with its media partners Haaretz, Inside Story, Tempo, WAV research collective and Woz – published a research briefing entitled A Web of Surveillance – Unravelling a murky network of spyware exports to Indonesia”. The briefing detailed how Indonesian companies and state agencies imported and deployed a wide range of highly invasive spyware and other surveillance technologies between 2017 and 2023. These include the notorious Pegasus spyware platform from Israel-based company NSO Group, the highly invasive spyware platform Predator from the international Intellexa consortium, and the “cyber infiltration system” Cyrus from Israeli cyber-surveillance vendor Saito Tech, also known as Candiru. Amnesty International states that the use of such spyware “cannot be considered compliant with human rights standards.”

The research briefing mentions the Indonesian National Police and the National Cyber and Crypto Agency (BSSN) as two state agencies that have purchased the spyware, while articles by Haaretz and Tempo Magazine also mention Indonesia’s Ministry of Defense, which is currently headed by president-elect Prabowo Subianto.

We are appalled that despite the Indonesian government’s long standing support for the Palestinian people, it has purchased and employed spyware that has been used against human rights defenders and journalists in Palestine, as well as across the world,” said Santiago. “It is the height of hypocrisy to publicly condemn Israel while at the same time secretly using the Israeli regime’s tactics against Indonesia’s own citizens.”

In 2021, human rights group Front Line Defenders (FLD) found indications that the devices of six Palestinian human rights defenders had been infected by Pegasus spyware, while in 2022, cybersecurity company Avast discovered that malware attributed to Candiru had been used to target journalists and other other individuals in Palestine, Lebanon, Turkey, and Yemen.

Academics and activists have raised the alarm on Indonesia’s deteriorating democratic and human rights situation and these reports give further indication as to why that is the case. A government that feels the need to spy so intensely on its own people is unlikely to uphold the right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression,” said Santiago.

According to the briefing, between January 2019 and May 2022, Amnesty International recorded at least 90 cases of digital harassment and other forms of digital attacks by “unidentified parties” directed against civil society, resulting in at least 148 victims. Regional and Indonesian civil society organizations such as the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet), the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Indonesia Corruption Watch, and the Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers) – among others – have also repeatedly raised concerns about the increasing incidence of digital attacks against individuals and organizations that are critical of the government in recent years.

We urge the Indonesian government to immediately halt the purchase and use of this highly invasive spyware,” said Santiago. “We further call on our fellow parliamentarians in Indonesia to hold hearings to investigate how this spyware has been used and to initiate legislation that creates safeguards to ensure that such surveillance tools are not abused.”

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ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) was founded in June 2013 with the objective of promoting democracy and human rights across Southeast Asia. Our founding members include many of the region's most progressive Members of Parliament (MPs), with a proven track record of human rights advocacy work.

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