'Cyberattacks in Turkey rises 3 pct in first half'

By Tuba Sahin

ANKARA (AA) – Cyberattacks in Turkey rose 24.9 percent in the first half of 2018, up from 21.9 percent in the same period last year, according to Moscow-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab.

"If we compare the number of people affected by web-borne threats in Turkey in the first half of 2018 and the same period in 2017, there is an increase by 3 percent," Amir Kanaan, managing director for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META) at Kaspersky Lab, told Anadolu Agency.

Praising cybersecurity awareness in Turkey at government and enterprise level, Kanaan said the company is willing to improve cybersecurity awareness and protection in the country through sharing Kaspersky Lab's experiences.

"We are really interested in the cybersecurity initiative that the government is driving forward and we want to be a supporter for such initiative," he said.

Kanaan noted that the average cost of an attack on an enterprise was around $600,000, according to their studies.

He added that this awareness was weak at small companies and consumers level.

"For example, we did a research in Turkey and we saw that 46 percent of the respondents, that usually are on the consumer side, don’t have any kind of protection on their devices such as laptops, mobile phones and this is a little bit dangerous," Kanaan said.

He highlighted that despite the fact that cybersecurity market expands, the number of professional working on cybersecurity was still low.

– Cybersecurity program

Kaspersky has started an initiative in META region in order to increase the employment in the sector, he stated.

"We have talked with several universities for a one-year program or curriculum on cybersecurity for the students. After [attending the program], the student would get cybersecurity degree," he said.

Kanaan remarked that the company also seek for universities in Turkey to launch the program.

"In doing that we will have a big number of students that will be graduated with not only good experience but also good knowledge on cybersecurity," he said.

He stated that Kaspersky Lab aimed to focus on enterprises in Turkey.

Kanaan added that the company plans to expand their operations in Turkey by around 25 percent next year.

He noted that the company did not change its prices for all consumer security solutions despite fluctuation of the currency exchange rates in Turkey.

"Considering the unstable currency rates and difficulties that customers experienced since beginning of 2017, the company started selling its solutions and services not in U.S. dollars, but in Turkish Lira. At the moment all the prices are fixed at the current level, which represents last year’s rates," Kanaan said.

"With this offer, Kaspersky Lab once again emphasizes its commitment to Turkish market and support for customers," he added.

Kim skips inter-Korean exhibition of his favorite sport

By Alex Jensen

SEOUL (AA) – North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un is expected to be too busy to attend the second day of inter-Korean basketball games Thursday, having also missed the previous day's action.

This week's series of four friendly matches over two days — the first of their kind in 15 years and featuring men and women from both Koreas — was initiated by Kim himself during his meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April.

Known to be a big basketball fan, Kim has famously developed a friendship in recent years with ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman.

"The chairman is currently giving on-site guidance, so it is likely that he might not attend today's matches," United Front Department head Kim Yong-chol was quoted by Yonhap News Agency as telling South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon during a meeting in Pyongyang.

Cho is leading the South's basketball delegation of 100 members.

Despite his busy schedule, Chairman Kim is understood to have watched the first day's games on television and is also set to welcome U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week.

Pompeo is due to arrive in Pyongyang on Friday for denuclearization talks.

Amid concerns that North Korea has failed to demonstrate any clear plan to abandon its nukes, security experts in the South suspect Pyongyang of being behind continued cyber-attacks.

Cyber security sources cited by Yonhap claimed Thursday that North Korean hackers have ignored the spirit of cooperation that followed April's inter-Korean summit.

They have allegedly recently targeted South Korean hospitals and manufacturers, for example, as well as sending e-mails masquerading as government officials from the South.

"Judging solely by (the) latest actions by North Korean hackers, it seems that cyber space is excluded from the agreement on ending hostile acts," a local expert was quoted as saying.

NATO’s ‘biggest’ cyber defense exercise begins

By Ilker Girit

ISTANBUL (AA) – The NATO on Tuesday launched its "biggest" cyber defense exercise involving more than 700 participants from 25 member states, as well as NATO partner countries, the European Union, industry and academia.

The 3-day exercise, named Cyber Coalition, is managed from the NATO Cyber Range in Estonia, with the majority of the participants taking part from their own workplaces, according to a statement on NATO's website.

"Taking place for the 10th year in a row, Cyber Coalition tests and trains cyber defenders from across the Alliance in their ability to defend NATO and national networks," the statement said, calling Cyber Coalition "NATO’s biggest and most important cyber defense exercise".

"The exercise has a challenging, realistic scenario that helps prepare our cyber defenders for real-life cyber challenges," NATO said.

Earlier this month, NATO said it would improve its command structure to tackle modern threats including cyber security.

Speaking at a cyber security conference in Mons, Belgium on Oct. 19, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said cyberattacks were serious, and had the "potential to undermine NATO’s missions around the world and to hamper our ability to deliver collective defense".

"That is why cyber defense is a top priority for NATO and for NATO allies," he added.

In September, EU defense ministers, as well as diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini and Stoltenberg took part in a cyberattack readiness exercise in the Estonian capital, Tallinn.

Stoltenberg said there had been a 60 percent increase in the number of cyberattacks against the alliance’s networks last year.

Security chief says Russian hackers targeted UK

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – Russian hackers targeted media, telecom and energy companies in the U.K. over the last year, a top British intelligence expert said Wednesday.

Ciaran Martin, head of the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), said he could “confirm that Russian interference, seen by the National Cyber Security Centre over the past year, has included attacks on the U.K. media, telecommunication and energy sectors”.

Martin’s comments on Russia followed Prime Minister Theresa May’s Monday speech, in which she accused the country of meddling in elections and fabricating fake news stories to destabilize Western democracies.

“I have a very simple message for Russia,” May said.

“We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed. Because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of Western nations to the alliances that bind us,” she added.

“Russia is seeking to undermine the international system. That much is clear. The PM made the point on Monday night – [the] international order as we know it is in danger of being eroded,” Martin added.

The recently voiced concerns about Russian influence in British politics came after a research suggested that more than 400 fake Twitter accounts believed to be run from St. Petersburg published posts about Brexit.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh identified 419 accounts operating from the Russian Internet Research Agency attempting to influence U.K. politics out of 2,752 accounts suspended by Twitter in the U.S., The Guardian reported.

One of such posts attempted to stir anti-Islamic sentiment during the Westminster Bridge terror attack in March when a bogus post claimed a Muslim woman ignored victims. The claim was picked up by various tabloids.

A leaked NCSC memo suggested in July the U.K. energy sector had been targeted by “state-sponsored actors”, without giving any country names.

Turkey to run national cyber-security drill

By Arife Yildiz Unal

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey is getting ready to run a national cyber-security drill to test possible vulnerabilities in its state institutions, a senior minister said on Wednesday.

Communications Minister Ahmet Aslan told Anadolu Agency the drill is part of a global awareness-raising effort on cyber-attacks.

On Nov. 29, the informatics infrastructure of Turkey’s state institutions and their capacity to respond to security threats will be tested, Aslan said, and called on all public bodies to join in the drill.

The minister stressed the significance of the exercise, saying it would both help improve security and strengthen coordination among institutions.

Around 20 public corporations will take part in the first phase of the drill, while nearly 50 will participate in the second phase.

Reports on security vulnerabilities will be shared with the participating institutions at the end of the exercise.

UK lawmakers examine Brexit cyber-attack claim

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – A foreign cyber-attack could have been behind the crash of a U.K. website to register voters for the country’s 2016 Brexit referendum, a parliamentary committee suggested on Wednesday.

“The Register to Vote website crashed on the evening of June 7, 2016,” but the government said it was due to “an exceptional surge in demand”, a report from the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee stated.

However, the lawmakers did not rule out a foreign cyber-attack as a factor.

“We do not rule out the possibility that there was foreign interference in the EU referendum caused by a DDOS (distributed denial of service attack) using botnets, though we do not believe that any such interference had any material effect on the outcome of the EU referendum,” it said.

Evaluating other countries’ approach to cyber processes, the report said the U.K. must take cyber security seriously.

“The U.S. and U.K. understanding of ‘cyber’ is predominantly technical and computer-network based, while Russia and China use a cognitive approach based on understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals,” it added.

The committee also advised preventive measures for such future attacks.

British voters chose to leave the EU in last year’s referendum and Prime Minister Theresa May started official exit negotiations with the bloc last month.

Foreign role suspected in Singapore data breach

By Kirsten Han

SINGAPORE (AA) – Cyber security experts have suggested that a recent breach into the Singapore Ministry of Defense’s Internet system could have involved foreign state-sponsored entities, local media reported Wednesday.

The defense ministry stated in a news release that they had detected a breach of their Internet access system, known as I-net, in early February, resulting in the theft of the identification numbers, telephone numbers and dates of birth of around 850 national servicemen and ministry employees.

“The attack on I-net appeared to be targeted and carefully planned,” the ministry said in its release. “The real purpose may have been to gain access to official secrets, but this was prevented by the physical separation of I-net from our internal systems.”

Nick Savvides, security advocate for Symantec Asia-Pacific and Japan, told local news website TODAYonline that the involvement of state-sponsored entities could not be ruled out.

“Considering the high profile of the victim involved in this cyber breach and level of sophistication involved, attacks of this level generally involve state-sponsored actors or highly skilled politically motived hacker groups,” he said.

Steven Wong, president of the Association of Information Security Professionals, pointed out that a well-targeted breach such as this one would likely have required a reconnaissance phase, during which the Ministry of Defense’s systems were monitored for weaknesses.

He added that it would now be important for all those affected to practice “good digital hygiene” such as resetting their passwords and reporting any suspicious activity involving their personal information, so that the 850 compromised accounts cannot be used as part of a further breach that might lead to the theft of more information.

The ministry said in its release that classified data is stored on a different computer system, which is not connected to the Internet and is subject to more stringent security measures.

While the breach is currently under investigation, all other computer systems within the ministry and the Singapore Armed Forces are also being checked.

PM praises Turkey’s progress in IT

By Mehmet Tosun

ANKARA (AA) – Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Thursday praised Turkey’s recent development in information technology and cybersecurity.

Speaking at “the National Informatics Congress” in Ankara, Yildirim said: “Today, cybersecurity has become national security. We have already made progress. We are among the top 10 countries in the world on this issue. But still we need to gain ground, the legal background is ready.”

Recalling the role of information technology in the deadly coup attempt, he added that, “How did they use IT? They identified all locations, then ordered commanders.”

Referring to social media networks’ role in the protests, he stressed: “We saw how it could be used unconsciously during the Gezi protests in a way to provoke terror.”

The Gezi protests of June 2013 saw a relatively small environmental protest in Istanbul’s Gezi Park mushroom into a nationwide wave of protests against the government that left eight protesters and a police officer dead.

The government later labeled the demonstrations as an attempt to overthrow it by members of Gulen’s “parallel state” in the police and court system.

Yilidirim added: “That’s why you can use IT to destroy a country also. For this reason, we have to establish a structure based on responsible understanding.”

Having opened on Thursday under the theme “Information Technology and Democracy”, the congress runs through Friday.

Turkey accuses the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) — led by U.S. based Fetullah Gulen, — of organizing the defeated coup as well as a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.

On July 15, a coup attempt in Turkey left 248 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

Cyber security threat looming for Australia

By Jill Fraser

MELBOURNE, Australia (AA) – According to a cyber security report released Wednesday, terrorists could soon have the ability to hack into what are currently classified “secure” Australian government networks.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre’s Threat Report 2016 states that a recent series of attacks on high-profile agencies — worldwide — indicates that there’s “a willingness to use disruptive and destructive measures to seriously impede or embarrass organisations and governments”.

The report warns that threats for Australia are on the rise and estimates that within three years terrorists may be able compromise networks “with destructive effect”.

Between Jan. 1, 2015 and June 1, 2016 the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), an intelligence agency in the Australian Government Department of Defence, responded to 1,095 cyber security incidents on government systems, which were considered serious enough to warrant operational responses.

Specifically the report reveals last year’s cyber attack on the Bureau of Meteorology was the work of a “foreign intelligence service”, which managed to install malicious software and steal sensitive documents.

“On investigation, ASD identified the presence of particular Remote Access Tool (RAT) malware popular with state-sponsored cyber adversaries, amongst other malware associated with cybercrime,” the official report states.

Dan Tehan, the minister assisting the prime minister for cyber security, wouldn’t specify which country, but said it showed cyber espionage was alive and well.

“We have to make sure that we’re taking all the steps necessary to keep us safe, because the threat is there and the threat is real,” he told ABC radio.

“We don’t narrow it down to specific countries, and we do that deliberately, but what we have indicated is that cyber espionage is alive and well and that’s why we want to be transparent in this report about the incident,” Tehan said.

In 2015, the ABC alleged “China is being blamed for a major cyber attack on the computers at the Bureau of Meteorology, which has compromised sensitive systems across the Federal Government.”

In December, the ABC was told it would cost millions of dollars to plug the security breach.

The Shadow Assistant Minister for Cyber Security Gai Brodtmann released a statement Wednesday afternoon addressing the cyber security report. She referred to it as “a wake-up call to the Turnbull Government”.

In April, the government launched a major new cyber security strategy, the first in seven years, targeting improved cyber security.

Brodtmann said Wednesday’s report “suggests that terrorists and malicious non-state actors could develop an offensive cyber capacity within the life of this Parliament”.

“Timing is critical and delay is unacceptable,” he added.