Turkey reviewing ways to fight online attacks
Officials say those who hack into government websites are terrorists.
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 11/07/12
Government websites in Turkey have been the latest subject of online attacks that reportedly targeted the country's foreign and domestic policy.
Two enigmatic hacker groups, known as "RedHack" and "Anonymous," have claimed responsibility for several attacks on official websites since early this year.
Most recently, the Foreign Ministry announced on July 3rd that its website was attacked by a "local hacker group" that stole personal data of foreign diplomats and placed photos of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan embracing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi on the page.
RedHack later published on the internet the identities of foreign diplomats serving in Turkey.
Government investigators responded to the attack sharply, calling on police to recognise the group as a "terrorist organisation." The prosecutors based the request on the fact that the socialist hacking group used a hammer-and-sickle logo and had a political manifesto.
"Although RedHack is more an amateur group, [its] way of formation ... remains dangerous," said Mustafa Alkan, chairman of Ankara-based Information Security Association.
"Unfortunately, Turkey is among those topping the list of the countries subjected to cyber-attacks. While only some of the hackers are known, others remain anonymous," he told SES Türkiye, and added that cyber-attacks "have increased in the country especially during the past years."
In April, RedHack seized the Interior Ministry's official page to protest one of the minister's recent speeches that sparked public criticism during his visit to Erzurum, where he attended funeral ceremonies for fallen soldiers.
The group Anonymous also hacked several websites belonging to the ministries of Justice, Interior and Foreign Affairs, as well as the National Police Department during recent months, calling on the government to end internet censorship in the country.
For Ozgur Uckan, new media expert at the Istanbul Bilgi University, the investigators need to closely analyse the character of and reasons for the attacks, since "it's all about illegal hacktivism, rather than cyber terrorism."
"Describing every hacker group as a terrorist or launching operations that restrict freedom of expression on the internet is not the way to protect from cyber-attacks. [The government] should establish professional security systems that answer international standards," he told SES Türkiye, arguing that sometimes the subjects of hacking are "even being sympathised by the people."
"The act of hacking is not legal and obtaining data by interfering with information systems is a crime, according to the laws, but it can't be justified by counterterrorism laws," he said.
Like many other local analysts, Uckan believes the government has enough sources to meet the problem, but "it is lacking knowledge."
"In fact, neither public, nor personal data are protected in Turkey," he said. "We don't even have a personal data protection law."
Due to strengthening cyber security, he said, the government must "promote information security regulations that ... speed-up the efforts of raising awareness of the public institutions [and] educate people to protect their data."
In its latest report on cyber security, the ISA also called on parliament to adopt draft laws regarding cyber security and protection of personal data in its first convenience.
Ibrahim Halil Mazicioglu AKP MP and spokesman for parliament's Information and Technology Committee, said Ankara is performing studies to further understand unique threats posed by cyber terrorism but the issue is not yet on parliament's agenda.
"We've done several actions to protect internet security and are ready to take further steps to prevent possible future damages," he told SES Türkiye.
In 2010 the Turkish National Security Council included cyber security threats in the new national strategy.
The country's new cyber security strategic plan will be ready by next year, Transportation and Communication Minister Binali Yıldırım announced early this year.