The Turkish government is in preparations to establish a national cyber ‘army’ that will tackle national cyber threats against the country, according to the Turkish Minister for Transportation, Maritime Affairs, and Communications Ahmet Arslan.
The announcement was made in the aftermath of the global WannaCry ransomware attack that affected over 300,000 computers worldwide, but left most of Turkey and the Middle East largely unaffected due to its weekend timing. Still, the WannaCry episode is being seen by policy makers everywhere as a wake up call.
“We survived these recent attacks unharmed as a country,” said Arslan, who noted that only one factory in Turkey ceased operations for a day because it was part of the supply chain of French auto manufacturer Renault, whose systems were affected by the WannaCry ransomware.
Yet Arslan is not content to have avoided serious damage from the WannaCry episode, telling Turkish reporters that, “…they may pose a bigger threat and danger in the following days. That’s why we are strengthening the structure all the time. Some 13,000 white hackers came to work in the public sector. We are building a cyber army with five groups.”
“We formed centers and teams to intervene in cyber incidents starting from 2013. We led the way for the formation of these centers and teams in all institutions, not just the public sector. There is a beautiful coordination on this issue. We notified the institutions about the possibility of this recent cyberattack. We said, ‘Update your defense software and antivirus programs.’ This was very important,” he added.
The Turkish government started a recruitment drive in late 2016 for hundreds of university graduates to work in cyber security after a tumultuous year that saw up to 90 million cyber attacks and exploits targeting Turkish government and private sector computers and networks.
The recruitment drive is being led by the Turkish government’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK), and new recruits can expect to be paid a minimum of 6,000 Turkish Lira (approximately U.S$1,700) a month upon joining the BTK. According to BTK officials, the new cyber security recruits can expect to work on the frontlines of Turkish national security.
2016 was a devastating year for Turkish cyber security after the 15 July 2016 attempted coup that involved a large number of active measures in cyberspace by both the coup instigators and by the government of President Erdogan. Additionally, the Erdogan government endured several weeks of intense political pressure as Wikileaks mounted a campaign not long after the attempted coup to release information thought to be embarrassing for Ankara.