Minister to launch new
Telkomsel, Indosat investigation

In response to the latest allegations concerning spying by the US National Security Agency (NSA), the Communications and Information Ministry warned domestic operators that they would risk a shutdown if implicated.

Communications and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring said on Tuesday that he would launch another probe into telecommunication companies allegedly involved in spying.

“We will investigate if the operators were actively involved [in the spying] or if their networks were breached by foreign entities,” he said.

“If we find that they had conspired in the tapping, we will shut them down,” said Tifatul.

The statement came after The International New York Times reported that the NSA’s Australian counterpart, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), had conducted surveillance on a US law firm representing the Indonesian government in a trade dispute.

The report also mentioned that ASD had access to “bulk call data from Indosat” and had obtained almost 1.8 million encrypted master keys, utilized to protect private communication, from Telkomsel.

PT Telekomunikasi Selular (Telkomsel) and PT Indosat are the country’s largest and second largest cellular operators respectively.

The companies were previously mentioned in a report in November last year and implicated in allegations surrounding wire tapping by Australia on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s telephone.

The ministry had conducted an investigation over the first allegation, which Tifatul said resulted in “no evidence of operators purposefully collaborating with foreign parties”.

Telkomsel and Indosat reiterated that they had strictly adhered to national and international telecommunication guidelines and industry standards.

“We are not involved in any way with these spying attempts,” Indosat CEO, Alexander Rusli, said.

He added that the operator had adhered to all “standards, regulations and best practices” and conducted internal audits of their networks.

“We did not find any network leakage,” he added.

Telkomsel issued a similar statement, saying that they had even complied with standards set by international telecommunication bodies.

“We have fulfilled standards laid out by the International Telecommunication Union [ITU] on network architecture and telecommunication equipment, which encompasses security systems,” Telkomsel spokesperson Adita Irawati said.

The ITU is an agency under the United Nations, which is focused on the information and telecommunication field, and is involved in the issuing of technical standards for networks and technology.

“The security equipment on our networks is also periodically audited internally, as well as by external parties,” Adita added.

Alexander added that the operator only recognized lawful interception from Indonesian agencies legally authorized to do so.

Agencies authorized to wiretap are the National Intelligence Agency (BIN), the National Police, the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the Attorney General’s Office (AGO).

“We find it extremely unethical for other parties to conduct wiretapping,” he said.

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