Hacktivism – Bjorka, Data Breach and Politics in Indonesia

Hacktivism – Bjorka, Data Breach and Politics in Indonesia

Hacktivism – crime or activism?

We all must have heard of Wikileaks at some point in life. Julian Assange, the founder, has been the talk of the world since his website leaked huge US government’s secrets, showing their actions of violation of human rights, together with Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. These people got criminal charges from espionage, as the information they leaked did not come from a legal source. The US government has since tried to take down Wikileaks, stating that it is posing a threat to national security, but the judgment is still up in the air when it comes to this matter. Is it a good deed to blow the whistle, is it part of activism or an act of crime? Well, I won’t elaborate more about Wikileaks here, but instead I would like to talk about hacktivism itself- especially this case that happened recently in Indonesia.

Richard Heeks mentioned in his book, ICT4D, that there are consequences to the development of ICT. The presence of hackers could be one of the examples. According to Norton, one of the leading antivirus companies in the world, hacktivism is “a misuse, an abuse of the internet by many illegal ways to expose a believed injustice”. Data breach has notoriously become one of the forms of hacktivism, although behind any form of hacktivism, they could have many different motives and would ask for different things in return. Recently, a hacker under the pseudonym of Bjorka has surfaced in Indonesia. Their identity is hidden, claiming to reside in Warsaw, Poland, yet they are very aware of many Indonesian national, political and even secret affairs – something not a regular Polish might do. Their motive as a hacker remains unknown, but their work revolves around data breach and the Indonesian Ministry of Information and Communication (Kominfo), making people speculate that they are trying to send a message to Kominfo to “up their cybersecurity game”.

It all started in August 2022, when Kominfo announced that they are blocking several international websites in Indonesia, including PayPal and Steam due to a policy change. This sparked heat around Indonesian netizens, especially those who use those platforms on a daily basis. They were questioning why the Kominfo focuses on that, but rather failed to take action on online gambling platforms, which were deemed not in line with Indonesian religious values. In the beginning of September, the hacker Bjorka made the news and started posting mockery tweets to the Indonesian government on twitter, after selling 1,4 billion stolen data from Indonesian sim card registration on the website breach.to. However, instead of fixing the issue and tightening their cybersecurity, the minister responded by giving out statements from “This breach is not the ministry’s fault” to “Everyone needs to keep their identification numbers secure by themselves”. From here, things only got worse. The Indonesian netizens who felt angered by the statement showed their approval for Bjorka’s work, although not a few think that this is just the government’s cover of a huge ongoing police investigation. 


Translates to “This Bjorka phenomenon should have made the government aware of their weakness and failure in their cybersecurity defense, and then apologize to the citizens of Indonesia.”

Bjorka’s cybercrime continues, from doxxing the minister’s personal information on his birthday and yet another government official who is in charge of Indonesia’s cybersecurity. Bjorka also talked about exposing Munir’s killer, a case of an Indonesian human rights activist that was killed by poison on a plane from Indonesia to Netherlands, in 2004. On top of that, they commented that the Indonesian government are “idiots” for letting this data breach ongoing, to which the minister responded “The terminology ‘idiot’ is not ethical and not part of our culture. To hackers, please do not hack if you can, for it is illegal.” Until now, the work of the Kominfo focuses on catching who is behind Bjorka and blocking Bjorka on twitter, instead of strengthening their cybersecurity defense.

Overall, Bjorka’s work looked like it really was targeting the government of Indonesia. But since this is still an ongoing case, the situation might or might not go anywhere, as things that do not “go viral” or “stay viral” usually will be left forgotten by the Indonesian netizens. Do you think Bjorka’s work is Hacktivism, or is it for their personal gain?


  1. Livia Podestà

    Super interesting reading! Western media hasn’t reported on this, and I am curious to follow how this disruption will evolve. Will the Indonesian government take the cybersecurity as a major problem to be solved, and will Bjorka do more actions? How will the government secure that its citizens’ data won’t be used improperly? Curious to know the aim behind the action, will Bjorka become the Indonesian Wikileaks? Which are the implications in terms of international relations? I guess not only Indonesian citizens will be effected by this breech, but also foreign investors and companies might suffer the effects of this data appropriation. Please keep us updated on the blog on the evolution of this case.

    1. Vidi

      Hi Livia, thanks for your comment! As for now, the issue have died out a little. New twitter accounts claiming that they are Bjorka keep on popping out, claiming they have this data to leak and other things, but none of them seems to make a huge trending as it did a couple weeks back. As I mentioned, some people suspected that Bjorka was a cover created by the government to divert people’s attention from a current police scandal. Which is possible, the government is notorious for making big stories as a cover. Concerning international relations and investors, I have not heard that this case was problematized, although you are right, it should be a big concern. Be it real or not, the hackers that are doing data breaches to Indonesia is not just Bjorka. Another hacker even claimed that Indonesia’s cybersecurity is like “run by 14 year-olds” https://asianews.network/i-think-indonesias-cybersecurity-is-run-by-14-year-olds-hackers/ . Sadly, I am not sure if the government did take actions for this issue, as they seem to have other priorities.

  2. Gaspar Canela

    Norton defines “hacktivism” in a rather negative way, using words like “abuse”, “misuse” and “illegal.” I prefer the definition by Wikipedia (based on an academic thesis): “In Internet activism, hacktivism, or hactivism (a portmanteau of hack and activism), is the use of computer-based techniques such as hacking as a form of civil disobedience to promote a political agenda or social change.” Hacktivism lies in a gray area and can lead to positive or negative outcomes. It will be interesting to see how Bjorka evolves in Indonesia.

    1. Vidi

      I agree, Gaspar. I was just trying to show a reversed point of view, as Wikileaks usually have a pretty positive feedback from the people, but in definition it is a grey area since some people still think it is a bad thing to do, due to the process of obtaining the documents of “truth”. And it is a very interesting application of activism with the help of ICT, don’t you think?

      1. Gaspar Canela

        Yes. Actually, “hacktivism” is defined by Cambridge dictionary as “the activity of getting into computer systems without permission in order to achieve political aims.” The “without permission” is always problematic, isn´t it?

  3. Maybe, I am too biased, since I am an Indonesian, however the Bjorka’s case is definitely on top of my mind during this another drama of incompetency of our goverment in term of data management and protection. Most of Indonesia will regard Bjorka as their own version of Robin Hood. He is kind of antithesis of those whole government data leaking case. In other words, Bjorka bring the fact to the most Indonesians directly that incompetency will only lead to the rough path. It is sad to read the government response without even realising their own fault trying to belittle this case.

    1. Vidi

      Thank you Biyanto for your comment! I have recently seen several remarks from the netizens when something of injustice happening, where they would like to resort to Bjorka to dox or mess with their online data. It sounds indeed like a Robin Hood type of situation.

  4. Kat Dlugosz

    Hacktivism is such an interesting topic. Since internet became ‘The Thing’ (and growing up in Poland during a transitional era from communism to democracy I remember times before the internet very well), I always had this image at the back of my head that the next big revolution would be digital and that the hackers will save us from all that’s bad with this world. We live in an era when the digital and real-life is so interconnected that whatever happens online has a massive impact on offline and vice-versa. The binary online-offline is blurred so much that that I belive that hacktivism can be treated on the same level as other acts of civil disobedience, like blocking the streets or getting chained to doors of big corporation buildings, with the difference that while offline activities are always localised, the hacktivism can be done in a digital non-place and can have a much wider, even global impact.

    1. Vidi

      Thank you Kat for the comment! I agree with you, it is indeed interesting, although with the development of online information, propaganda can still be made or posted online to cover things up.

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