“Turkey is among the top 10 countries subjected to cyber attacks,” said Professor Mustafa Alkan, chairman of the Information Security Association, at the National Cyber Security Strategy Workshop in Ankara on June 19. The threat is serious because countries that lack a solid cyber security mechanism risk having all information and data, including that of a confidential or top-secret nature, not only collected by skillful hackers but also tampered with or deleted.
Noting that almost all developed countries have cyber security infrastructure, Alkan said, “We hope draft laws regarding cyber security and protection of personal data are adopted by Parliament at the earliest possible date.”
In the past, the websites of some of Turkey’s leading institutions, such as the Ministry of Interior, Turkish Airlines (THY) and the National Police Department, have been hacked. In the case of THY, ticketing and baggage handling had to be performed manually, and purchasing tickets online was not possible for some time. Organizations in Turkey have fought against these cyber attacks, to a great extent, by their own means up until today.
Alkan believes a cyber security national coordination board needs to be established, in order to protect all public institutions and to monitor their infrastructure against such attacks. Almost all developed countries have already set up their own national cyber security strategy policy and have cyber defense units and cyber security strategies. “We need to put into effect both our national cyber security strategy document and a board to coordinate the efforts of public institutions, such as the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey [TÜBİTAK], the Telecommunications Directorate [TİB], the General Staff and the Ministry of Interior,” Alkan told Sunday’s Zaman, adding that Turkey has the human talent necessary. The Information Security Association has also prepared a cyber security strategy document to present to the Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications.
It’s quite possible we are not aware of all the cyber attacks against public and private institutions. It was only after WikiLeaks that the world found out that communications systems had been hacked into and a lot of information that should have remained confidential had been captured. “Similar attacks to obtain, delete and tamper with information continue with great intensity, but we don’t know who, at the moment, may have infiltrated the systems of public institutions and what information may have been captured,” Alkan cautioned.
Turkey is preparing to take some important steps to protect itself. In a recent international conference in İstanbul, Binali Yıldırım, minister of transport, maritime affairs and communications, said: “One of our latest projects on cyber security is expected to be ready soon. We will have the capacity to find out what’s going on and who is up to what kind of mischief.” He also added that the government would provide financial aid ranging from TL 100,000 to 3 million for research and development projects in the area of informatics. Another significant step in Turkey’s fight against cyber threats is Pardus, a national operating system developed by TÜBİTAK. Originally developed in 2003 for public institutions, Pardus will now be modified to for use by the average computer user. The same operating system is already in use in 85,000 of the smart boards distributed to high schools under the FATİH project and will be installed into a further 620,000. Some public institutions, including the ministries of health, finance and justice, are also interested in Pardus and are in touch with TÜBİTAK. A national operating system will obviate the need to utilize systems based in other countries, giving Turkey greater control in the fight against cyber crime.
e-Çelebi, the so-called Turkish Google, is another project that Turkey is planning to implement. Yıldırım, who admitted that Turkey was a little late in setting up a national search engine, recently said at the Investigation Committee on Informatics and Internet in Parliament that it was unsustainable for a country to allow all information to be collected by a source in a foreign country, and, as with TÜBİTAK, a domestic search engine will help to tighten security against cyber crime.
Perhaps what best reveals the importance of cyber security in today’s world is what Tayfun Acarer, director of the Information Technologies and Communications Agency, said at a recent conference on electronic communications in İstanbul. “Success on the economic front is now dependent on how successfully you deal with cyber attacks,” he said, adding that wars in the future will not be fought with guns, but over the Internet.