State weapons manufacturer PT Pindad has to take extra steps to keep company secrets from being extracted to foreign nationals wanting a peek into Indonesia’s defense industry.
“During an interview, a candidate for employment is asked to detail his or her family background, including the occupations and social activities of all family members,” senior company official Agus Iriono said.
“This is just among efforts to prevent any leaking from the company,” he said, adding that it was a necessary strategy as the company was a regular target of espionage. “There have been some infiltrations in past years. Bu, I could not go into the details.”
As Indonesia’s economy soars at an impressive rate and with the defense budget expanding aggressively, several state companies and government agencies have increasingly become targets of espionage.
National Intelligence Agency (BIN) head Lt. Gen. Marciano Norman said recently there were indications that espionage activities have been increasing lately.
“We’re worried with such activities. More resources are now allocated to prevent them. It’s part of my priorities,” Marciano said, refusing to elaborate further. He said there were two Asian countries “one of which is a neighbouring nation” that have become more aggressive in spying into Indonesia’s economy.
It was not until last year that BIN had its own economic-intelligence division to help counter espionage in the business and economy sector.
Former head of the National Encryption Agency Maj. Gen. (ret.) Nachrowi Ramli, who served between 2002 and 2008, said aggressive efforts were needed to counter the espionage. “Since we can’t sue the perpetrators, we have to find ways to outsmart them,” Nachrowi said, adding that he had found at least 20 Indonesian embassies that had been bugged before he retired.
Legislator Tjahjo Kumolo of the House of Representatives Commission I overseeing defense, foreign affairs and intelligence, said there were two kinds of foreign intelligence officers operating in Indonesia: TSTC posted in official diplomatic positions, such as military attache’s and secretaries, and tSTC who work in covert operations.
“These covert agents are mostly embedded within multinational companies and nongovernmental organisations,” Tjahjo said.
Although he considered economic espionage as a common practice employed by state actors, Tjahjo strongly urged the local intelligence community to improve technologies and infrastructure to help keep state secrets safe.
Despite the fact espionage has lately relied on cyber infrastructure, network and information security expert Budi Rahardjo from the Bandung Institute of Technology believed Indonesia would only suffer minor impacts as most government agencies were not storing sensitive information in digital form, let alone in an integrated computer system.
“It’s kind of a blessing in disguise,” he said. “As long as our institutions have no super-secret information kept on their computers, there will be no reason for foreign data collectors to mobilise their resources to spy on us through the Internet.”