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Indonesia launches crackdown on online gambling sites exploiting government domains

The surge in online gambling sites faces scrutiny as millions of Indonesian government domains get exploited. Through backlinks, these sites exploit ‘.go.id’ domains, raising concerns.

Cybercrime Director Vivid acknowledges the scheme, with 4 million backlinks identified and ongoing efforts to dismantle them.

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INDONESIA: The surge in online gambling websites has come under intense scrutiny, particularly as it has been revealed that millions of government domain websites have been exploited by online gambling operators.

This exploitation is carried out using the method of backlinks, leveraging government-owned ‘.go.id‘ domains.

“So, it’s called a backlink, utilizing backlinks. Our team members are currently in the field to apprehend the Operation Targets (TO) who are utilizing backlinks,” stated Brigadier General Pol Adi Vivid Agustiadi Bachtiar, Director of Cyber Crime at the Indonesian National Police (Bareskrim), to reporters on Wednesday (30 Aug).

Brigadier General Pol Adi Vivid Agustiadi Bachtiar, Director of Cyber Crime at the Indonesian National Police (Bareskrim). (Photo: the documentary of Detikcom).

Unveiling the online gambling onslaught

The prevalent backlink scheme, as acknowledged by Vivid, is a result of online gambling operators hijacking government domain websites with the intention of redirecting visitors to their own gambling sites.

“We have already deployed teams to apprehend or uncover these backlinks. We mentioned that there were 4 million of them,” he explained.

Furthermore, Vivid elucidated the reasons behind this surge in the exploitation of government websites by online gambling sites. This arises from the lack of maintenance in the field of Information Technology (IT) management.

“We have provided information to website administrators to regularly clean up their websites. Unfortunately, this advice hasn’t been heeded. We urge the administrators of government websites suspected of being used for backlinks to clean up their sites,” he remarked.

Vivid emphasized that this issue is not solely the responsibility of the police. The website maintenance process is the obligation of site administrators who must routinely update their security systems.

“Security systems. We always remind them. Out of those four million, we remind them. Your website has been turned into this. So, we advise our government website administrators to take heed and be more diligent in cleaning up these backlinks,” he stressed.

Earlier, the Ministry of Communication and Informatics (Kominfo) has acknowledged the longstanding nature of this issue. Usman Kansong, Director-General of Information and Public Communication at Kominfo, stated that the phenomenon had been ongoing for a while, and their attention had been drawn to such cases.

Kansong explained that various factors contribute to the infiltration of government sites by online gambling platforms. One critical factor is the technical capability of government website administrators. He noted that many regional government agencies lack the necessary technological and human resources for cybersecurity.

“Perhaps the technical capability of government website administrators is not as ideal as envisioned. Many regional government sites are affected, and even local police station sites. It’s a comprehensive system, including resources and technology,” Kansong explained.

He also revealed that numerous agencies lack the initiative to secure their official websites. Many assume that government sites are not attractive targets for online gambling operators.

“Perhaps there’s also a lack of concern about securing these sites. Some may have the technological capability, but they might be negligent, thinking that such infiltration is impossible or that no one would bother. We’re increasing vigilance in this regard,” Kansong emphasized.

On another front, since 2018, Kominfo has been employing artificial intelligence (AI) technology to detect negative content across the board. A substantial 840,000 online gambling sites have been blocked, making them the second-most blocked category after pornography.

However, Kansong highlighted the need for cooperation from various agencies to effectively combat online gambling. He pointed out that each agency has its roles and responsibilities.

“Our role is to block the content; it doesn’t go beyond that. Gambling involves many aspects, including financial transactions. We need to collaborate with banks and the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK),” Kansong noted.

Nearly 4 million government domains exploited

Earlier, based on a post by @ismailfahmi on X, it was reported that millions of online gambling domains were identified using the ‘Drone Emprit‘ method, monitoring systems, and social media analysis.

Nearly four million online gambling sites were found to have used government ‘.go.id‘ domains.

According to Ismail, Indonesia is currently facing an online gambling emergency, with almost 4 million web pages using government domains.

“Try it yourself by Googling: gacor sites:go.id. Government officials and the public visiting government sites are immediately presented with gambling information,” Ismail wrote in his post last Tuesday (22 Aug).

The revelations didn’t stop there. Drone Emprit‘s findings also indicated that online gambling had infiltrated academic websites, with 1.2 million online gambling web pages utilizing ‘.ac.id‘ domains.

From the year 2022 up until August 30, 2023, a total of 866 suspects have been apprehended. Vivid disclosed that in 2022, 760 suspects were arrested, while in 2023, from the beginning of the year until August 30, 106 suspects were detained.

He mentioned that detailed information regarding the number of organizers among the hundreds of suspects apprehended is not available yet.

Moreover, Vivid explained that they have collaborated with the Ministry of Communication and Informatics (Kominfo) to block several online gambling sites. ”

We have also been blocking websites that contain online gambling content. In 2022, we submitted 401 block requests, which increased to 513 in 2023,” he clarified.

Furthermore, Vivid highlighted that the Indonesian National Police have been cooperating with law enforcement agencies from other countries in the region to combat online gambling syndicates.

Many cases have been successfully solved through collaborations with police forces across ASEAN countries.

“Thus far, we haven’t encountered significant obstacles with our Southeast Asian police counterparts. Especially with online gambling issues, they are very cooperative in providing assistance,” he concluded.

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