Indonesian terrorist groups could resort to cybercrime, specifically hacking, to finance terrorism in the future. The encouragement and guidance by each generation of terrorists is coupled with possible money-laundering paths using virtual payments. This poses a challenge for the authorities to disrupt terrorism financing in the country.
financiang typically comprises three stages: fund-raising, fund-moving, and
fund-using. In the fund-raising stage, terrorist groups have resorted to
criminal activities online such as hacking – defined by US cyber security expert
Dorothy E. Denning as “activities conducted online and covertly that seek to
reveal, manipulate, or otherwise exploit vulnerabilities in computer operating
systems and other software” – to finance terrorism.
a propensity for Indonesian terrorist groups to resort to hacking? How do the
terrorists move and use the proceeds from their hacking activities? Events in
the past point to signs of a potential capability.
first successful hacking incident to fund terrorism in Indonesia was reported
in 2012, when terrorist group Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT) trainees Rizky
Gunawan and Cahya Fitriyanta worked with an extremist hacker, Mawan Kurniawan,
to hack a Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) currency trading website by penetrating members’
accounts and selling the members’ “currency” in 2011.
approximately Rp 6 billion (around US$428,500) proceeds, around Rp 667 million
(about US$47,600) was allocated to MIT’s military training, including weapons
procurement; a tiny amount of Rp 250,000 (around US$17) was used for the
September 2011 suicide bombing of a church in Solo, Central Java.
then, there has been no reported incident of Indonesian terrorist groups
committing fund-raising through hacking to finance terrorist operations,
although that they may have attempted to do so – successful or otherwise –
Terrorist Hacking Manual
generation of Indonesian extremists has produced a hacking manual – with
extremist ideological justification – to fund their operations that cater to
their era. A Washington Post article mentioned that Imam Samudra, one of the
perpetrators of the 2002 Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) Bali Bombings, devoted a chapter
in his infamous 280-page book published in 2004, Aku Melawan Teroris (I Fight
the Terrorists), which encouraged readers to commit cybercrime.
chapter, titled “Hacking, Why Not”, urged his fellow extremists to conduct
“carding” (credit card fraud). The chapter outlined a rudimentary carding
manual, by first learning computer programming systems and scanning websites
vulnerable to hacking. He advised his followers to find mentors and build
networks with potential extremist hackers, listing six chat rooms as sources.
on hacking and carding, including those from non-extremist sources, continue to
circulate among the extremist community online. The subsequent generation,
namely Bahrun Naim, one of the most tech-savvy Indonesian fighters with the
Islamic State (IS) who was killed in 2018 in Syria, had written manuals on his
websites on the basics of hacking and carding.
incorporated those topics in a chapter titled “technology” in his 335-page
“manifesto” written in 2016. Some sections in the 96-page chapter on technology
provided technical details on hacking and carding, including methods to launder
the proceeds using various virtual payments such as PayPal, Western Union, and
virtual currency Bitcoin, or cashing them out by purchasing other items online.
He specifically provided an example, complete with a picture, on how to hack a
PayPal account, one of which was using a scam webpage.
manual on hacking suggested that he himself had attempted to conduct carding
and was consulted on the matter. Bahrun Naim’s protégé group in Batam, namely
Katibah Gonggong Rebus (KGR) led by Gigih Rahmat Dewa, was instructed in 2016
to learn how to hack a PayPal account. KGR was the group which, in 2015,
plotted to launch a rocket targeting Singapore.
the technical expertise required for hacking, a majority of the younger
generation of Indonesian extremists may not be savvy enough to do so.
Nevertheless, they may aid terrorist groups with fund-moving – laundering the
money obtained from the hacking activities, or at least assisting them in
Bahrun Naim used to have difficulties finding operatives who had PayPal
accounts that enabled him to transfer money, this may not be the case for
current and future operations, as increasing numbers of individuals become more
familiar with virtual payments such as e-money.
stage of terrorism financing, fund-using from the cybercrime’s proceeds for
terrorist operational expenses – i.e. accommodation, transportation, and other
logistic items including bomb-making ingredients – can also be performed
entirely through virtual payment, without the need to transit the money via a
bank account. More e-marketplaces provide options for buyers to make payment
via virtual payment providers, rather than the usual bank transfers.
poses a great challenge as police, in cooperation with the Indonesian Financial
Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK), are thus far only able to
track transactions when the intended recipient cashes out the virtual money
into their own, friends’ or relatives’ bank accounts. This becomes more
complicated if the recipients use the funds for their living expenses, rather
than for plotting an attack.
address terrorist fund-raising, authorities should beef up their surveillance
of sympathisers and members of terrorist groups who have the technical
expertise to conduct hacking, typically those who are trained or work in the
field of information technology.
the cybercrime perpetrators in Indonesia were graduates in computer science or
information and technology. A Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) initiative in
universities that is specifically catered to students of those field may be
considered, as groups such as JI have specifically targeted students from these
fields for recruitment.
fund-moving and fund-using end, the Indonesian central bank’s policies on
licensing virtual payment companies operating in the country and forbidding
conventional banks and other non-bank payment companies from processing
payments in virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, can further be strengthened.
be done by extending cooperation between law enforcement agencies and virtual
payment companies that do not have offices in Indonesia. This could assist the
former in detecting, investigating and charging terrorist suspects who have
committed cybercrime to finance terrorism.
Arianti is an Associate Research Fellow at the International Centre for
Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), a constituent unit in the
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological
University (NTU), Singapore.