Indonesians young and old have rapidly come to rely on their mobile phones for all manner of services, says Michael Salkeld. But this reliance opens them up to the marauding interest of cyber attackers…
Did you know there are more than 270 million people living in Indonesia? And by the time that you’ve finished reading this article there will probably be a few hundred more.
There are, however, over 400 million active cellular phones. Even if you deduct the diminishing number of infants who are tech savvy and the growing number of individuals like myself who are not, you arrive at the fairly surprising conclusion that there are two mobile phones for every person in Indonesia. And of these, 92 million are smartphone users.
The smartphone surge
Partly this is down to geography. Indonesia is a massive archipelago of 17,000 islands. Many of its scattered communities do not have access to mains electricity or water, let alone wifi. Although the use of static communications infrastructure in major cities is widespread, by far the most common method of internet connection is by means of the cellular telephone network.
Whilst some first world activities, like stopping at red traffic signals, have been slow to establish themselves in Indonesia, others, such as social media, are absolutely entrenched in daily life. This has led to some singularly Indonesian applications of technology such as Gojek.
Gojek is the millennial version of the tradition “ojek” – a motorcycle taxi. The ojek is itself the 20th century version of the rickshaw. Gojek began its existence as a smartphone app to hail rides but has morphed into provider of a wide range of services; some familiar such as letter and parcel delivery (GoSend), online shopping (GoMart) and, particularly popular, the self-explanatory GoFood service.
The draining of accounts would appear to be, from anecdotal evidence, a fairly common experience. Most people that I have spoken to about the issue accept it as an inevitable consequence of life online. But even a small amount lost can soon add up. Remember the sheer number of smartphones in use in Indonesia and when you multiply those few thousand stolen rupiah by the number of victims you are looking at billions in theft.
Even more abstract to many smartphone is the loss of personal data. A massive programme to issue all citizens with an electronic ID card (eKTP) has been underway for a couple of years now. As well as providing basic biometric identification information, the card is at the heart of the government’s digital transformation programme and is an enabler to welfare, health and social security systems.
I have personal experience of individuals who lead a sort of shadow life following the theft of their identity as they struggle to supply adequate proof that they are indeed who they claim to be. The Indonesian population readily adopts, absorbs and embraces new technology but in its eagerness for the latest innovation it frequently overlooks basic standards of online safety.
Technological solutions alone cannot guarantee security; these need to be accompanied by a raised awareness of personal security.
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