Australian customers of some 170 small businesses ranging from dry cleaners, to renters of bouncy castles, were in for a surprise last week, when they attempted to access the relevant websites and were confronted with a curt message: “Stop spying on Indonesia.”

As diplomatic tensions between Indonesia and Australia reached a nadir over revelations that Canberra eavesdropped on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s phone conversations in 2009, Indonesian hackers have been protesting as vociferously as the more corporeal crowds outside the Australian diplomatic mission in Jakarta.

Hacking by nationalistically-driven youth is a phenomenon more usually associated with China, but as demonstrated by the Australia attacks, Indonesia is also emerging as a major source country for malicious cyber traffic.

In fact, a recent report by cloud computing firm, Akmai, pin points Indonesia, not China, as the country that accounts for the largest number of worldwide hacking incidents.

Given that just last year Indonesia was the originator of less than 1 percent of malicious cyber activity, this massive surge has left experts befuddled.

Cyber criminals operating outside the geographical boundaries of Indonesia can hack into computers via malware or remote-controlled “botnets” to utilise their IP addresses, in a bid to hide their tracks when attacking other targets.

However, even if the majority of malicious cyber traffic ostensibly emanating from Indonesia actually originates elsewhere, hacking is nonetheless a growing problem here. Australia is not the only country to suffer at the hands of Indonesian hackers. They have also frequently attacked Malaysia’s websites.

Similar actions by Indonesian hackers were launched against websites in Myanmar and in Egypt.

But it is not only the diplomatic fallout of these incidents that is worrying to Jakarta. In a recent article in Jakarta Globe newspaper, Gatot Dewa Broto, spokesperson for the Ministry of Communication and Information was quoted as stating that Indonesia itself was the victim of 1.2 cyber attacks every day. And that these appeared to originate from within the country.

Much of this malicious traffic is directed against commodity-oriented industries, such as oil and gas, which remain susceptible to data phishing attempts. The Indonesian defence forces have also expressed alarm at the trend, and have announced their intention to set up a cyber army to wage a virtual war against future cyber attacks.

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