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Turkey Seeks National Plan for Cyber Threats

February 21, 2015 (Photo Credit: Tubitak)

ANKARA — Turkey is seeking to build a national framework that would incorporate all future anti-cyber activity and programs, a senior procurement official said.

"This [system] will work like a main operating system any big software company today features. All future work will be integrated into this system, like different programs working under a single operating system," the official said. "It will aim to minimize vulnerability from cyber attacks. The system will have defense, security and commercial applications."

The system in question is the "Cyber Security Operation Center," which Turkish authorities plan to build on national software.

Meanwhile, Turkey's procurement office, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), is preparing to set up a unit specifically dealing with cyber threats. The Turkish military already is establishing its own cyber threat units.

Software companies like Havelsan and STM, both government-controlled, seek privileged positions in a business that may eventually involve billions of dollars.

"SSM's new head [Undersecretary Ismail Demir who took over in April 2014] places utmost importance to cyber threats and to a roadmap with which Turkey will counter them," said one military official. "We are confident that the local industry is shaping up to support all governmental efforts against such threats."

The procurement official agreed that Demir offered "every support SSM can to all potential Turkish companies keen to develop solutions."

"SSM's policy is to encourage the local industry to aggressively take part in local cyber solutions," he said. "I guess dozens of different solutions with different areas of applicability will emerge in the next couple of years. Turkey has a strong software infrastructure."

Foreign cyber experts from 10 countries, including Belgium, Italy, Spain, France, Britain, Portugal, Germany, Turkey, the Netherlands and Romania, gathered at a meeting of the European Cyber Security Protection Alliance (CYSPA) in Ankara Feb. 17, hosted by STM, CYSPA's only Turkish member.

At the meeting, STM General Director Davut Yilmaz said that cyber was a relatively new and big battleground with no defined borders or a clear definition of friends and foes.

"You don't know where the enemy comes from or where it may hit. You may not even know what you have lost after an attack. Simultaneous attacks can spell disaster," Yilmaz said.

Tayfun Acarer, the head of Turkey's watchdog information and communication technologies authority, said cybersecurity would be a major strategic area in the next two years.

"In the last two years, mankind has produced more data than the history of mankind produced. Just like any attack on data is easy, a solution to prevent an attack is difficult and expensive," he said. "Every day 1.5 million people face cyber attacks. A cheap virus can do more harm than a fighter jet can do."

Turkey's scientific research institute, TUBITAK, operates a cybersecurity institute, SGE, which is in charge of most programs. SGE's 2013-14 action plan to counter cyber threats mentioned seven areas of work: building legal infrastructure; supporting legal proceedings through expertise; strengthening national cyber infrastructure; building a rapid reaction force against cyber threats; improving human resources in the field; developing local solutions; and expanding cyber defense capabilities.

Other players that deal with cybersecurity solutions include the information and communication technologies authority, the General Staff, military electronics specialist Aselsan and military software specialist Havelsan. But TUBITAK accounts for 70 percent of all Turkish cybersecurity programs.

In 2013, Turkey hosted about a dozen conferences on cybersecurity and new technologies. At the end of 2013, Col. Cengiz Özteke, commander of the General Staff's division for electronic systems and cyber defense, said the military considers cybersecurity as the country's "fifth force."


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