cyberarmscontrolblog

International Agreement for Control of Cyber Weapons

Tag: Turkey

December 2015 Cyber War Coverage

December, the supposed holiday time for most of the world, was filled with substantial coverage of the world’s raging cyber war.  Newsweek Magazine carried a special edition on The Art of (Cyber) War. It noted that a federal government database had been hacked so that the highly personal information for 21 million government employees information was published. It also notes that “by 2018” we can expect that the U.S. Department of Defense will deploy a new cyber defense program that will include a “task force” to protect America. Here is some more information.  The Identity Theft Resource Center reported 641 data breaches in 2015.  It also reported that “more than 175 million [U.S. citizens] people had their information exposed in data breaches in 2015”.

Companies such as Sift Science were reporting rapid growth: “Every day, businesses worldwide rely on Sift Science to eliminate fraud, slash costs, and grow revenue. Our cloud-based machine learning is powered by 5,000+ unique fraud signals and a network of 1,500+ websites (and growing).” Sift uses “large scale machine learning technology” to analyze data and connect “thousands of seemingly unconnected clues left behind by fraudsters.”  Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to catch Internet fraud. Machine intelligence (The Helix(TM) Security Engine) also is being used by Lookout, a security firm that focuses on the mobile phone market.

Not only the United States is concerned.  Salìh Biçakcī from Kadir Has University in Turkey reports that cyber attacks against Turkey are increasing, and that “the state is not prepared for approaching cyber wars”.  Turkey has been under a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack for most of December. Biçakcī argues that Turkey’s government is not set up for the type of coordination needed to withstand a determined cyber attack.  Many other governments must be having the same thoughts.  Biçakcī has authored such documents as The Rebirth of NATO between New War and Cyber Security and The role of information technology in responding to Terrorism. Because of ties between Turkey and ISIS, Anonymous attacked Turkey’s banking sector, according to TechWorm. Anonymous warned “Dear government of Turkey, if you don’t stop supporting ISIS, we will continue attacking your Internet, your root DNS, your banks and take your government sites down“.  Anonymous “took 400,000 [Turkish] sites offline for 7 days“.

Anonymous has published a chronology of events in its war against ISIS.  It calls the action “OpISIS”.

In India, Tarun Vijay a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been demanding that India set up a separate ministry for cyber security. As reported in the Indian Express, “[I]n the last five months 50,000 cyber attacks have been reported and nearly half of India’s internet population was being hit by cyber attackers”.

The above summarizes only a few events in December. As stated earlier, cyber war and cyber weapons are multiplying.  They are one of the most important tools of today’s warfare. A set of Cyber Arms limitation talks are surely needed.

Cyber Arms Control and the Middle East

The current situation in the Middle East is a disaster.  Yesterday, Turkey shot down a Russian SU-24M fighter aircraft flying over Northern Syria near the Turkish border.  Although the Turkish and Russian militaries had set up a “hot line” to handle any crisis or emergency, the Turkish side never bothered to contact the Russians.

Supposedly, the Russian aircraft flew into Turkish air space, but inspection of the radar outputs published by Turkey indicate that the amount of time flying inside Turkey could not have been more than a minute, possibly only half a minute or less.

When the aircraft was shot down, it was already back in Syrian air space, which means that the Turks shot their missiles from Turkey into Syria.

The Turks said that they had warned the Russian pilots for at least ten times over a period of 5 minutes.  At those speeds, this means that the Russian pilots were warned about Turkish air space when they were still in Syria, and heading towards Turkish territory.

The Russian pilot who survived the attack reported that no communication from the Turks had been received.

Originally there were two pilots in the SU-24.  Shortly after the aircraft was hit, they pushed the emergency escape buttons, to eject in their seats and parachute to safety.  On their way down, at a time when they could not possibly do any harm to anyone, Turkomen persons started firing on them with machine guns, killing one of the Russian pilots.

To add insult to injury, when two rescue helicopters were dispatched from nearby Russian ships to rescue the pilots, one was shot down, and yet another soldier or more were killed.

After the incident, the Turks rather than contacting Russia, instead went directly to NATO with a complaint, demanding support as part of the mutual defense treaty.  Military analysts in the United States are saying that this was an ambush by Turkey against the Russians.

Some are worried that this may lead to a third world war.  It is a horrible situation.  Fascinating as it may be, this blog is no place to examine the complex realities of the Middle East, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Russia, the United States, and all the other players there.

Cyber War in the Middle East Now

The list of cyber weapons that are being used now in the Middle East and across the world is very large.  We can name only a few, and without doubt could not list them all, even if there were inclination or time.

Electronic Battlefield. The United States is operating a gigantic information battlefield in which soldiers or special forces on the ground in Syria and Iraq are receiving more or less real time information from a variety of intelligence sources, including real time information from drones and satellites.  For every American soldier in the battlefield hell of ISIS, there are satellites overhead looking out for them.  These in effect are teams of persons at various US dark sites around the world. Constantly on duty, they monitor US troop movements are look ahead so as to be able to warn of danger.

Social Media War. ISIS has mastered the use of social media to recruit “sleeper” agents inside Western countries.  The recruits go through three phases:  First, there is general curiosity about propaganda available online.  Second, they make an initial contact with a recruiter for the Islamic State.  Sometimes this recruitment period goes on for a long time.  Some persons in the United States have even received gifts of candy and books.  In the third phase, the recruited agent goes over to the dark web, which means that all of their communications are encrypted, and this makes it impossible for the intelligence communities around the world to read what they are doing.  It is during this phase that the sleeper agent is given specific instructions regarding what they are next to do.

Hacking War. Every day the United States receives more than 100,000 attacks from overseas.  These attacks are aimed at either destroying or stealing important information.  Most attacks come from Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.  These attacks are monitored by the NSA Cyber Command, but it is difficult to keep up with all of the attacks, as many of them are automated.

It often is noted that even now adversaries have the ability to shut down or disrupt the US transportation system, the electricity grid, and financial institutions.  This merely compliments the constant virus and denial-of-service attacks that constantly flood the Internet.

The Internet is one of the greatest advantages of the US economy, but also it is a great factor of weakness.

Prospects for Arms Control

For the time being, the prospects for cyber arms control are not good.  Countries are too busy engaging in the growing war against ISIS, and in defending their own national interests.  Second, the cyber arms race is a time in which countries are working very hard to develop their capabilities.  Countries would rather develop their capabilities, than cut these efforts short by working on a treaty.

For the time being, the US is a global intelligence and cyber superpower, but no one knows how long that situation can last.