'White hat' hackers team to defend Turkey


With cyberattacks increasing on its security, Turkey turns to "white hat" hackers to bolster its defenses in cyberspace. After the media reported that the government will set up an army of hackers, a record number of 25,000 people applied to join the cybersecurity force, which will be supervised by the Communication Technologies Authority (BTK). The applicants also included Turks living abroad.

An elite force of hackers will be selected from applicants who will compete in a cybersecurity contest on Jan. 20. Qualified applicants will be employed by the National Intervention Center Against Cyber Attacks (USOM). Applicants will also be able to join a platform of volunteers for cybersecurity.

BTK Director Ömer Fatih Sayan said the majority of applicants were adults and some 16 percent were teenagers specializing in cybersecurity. "We have had applicants from every age group, some as young as 13-years-old and citizens as old as 57 years old, with a serious interest in joining [the white hat hackers]," Sayan said.

He added that a "capture the flag" contest organized by BTK will help them to pick the most qualified applicants. The contest offers both a monetary prize and opportunity to be employed in Turkey's new army of hackers. Those unable to win the top spots in the contest will be directed to other state agencies in need of cybersecurity experts.

As for the cybersecurity volunteer platform, it will work as a volunteer force to detect flaws in cybersecurity systems, and anyone finding flaws in the cyber defenses will be rewarded and given the chance for a cybersecurity force interview.

A wave of cyberattacks both this and last year threatened both state agencies and the private sector in Turkey. Recently, the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Berat Albayrak, confirmed that cyberattacks have targeted his ministry, aiming to infiltrate the power grid.

The country was subject to some 90 million cyberattacks this year. The attacks intensified to twice as many in the months leading up to the coup attempt, continuing even after it was quelled. Experts say some 45 percent of computers in Turkey are exposed to cyberattacks and that the country is fourth in the world in the number of "compromised" computers.

The Ministry of Telecommunications already employs hundreds of cyberattack intervention crews, both for the public and private sectors, but authorities complain about the lack of skilled experts.

The government has already launched a national action plan for a cybersecurity strategy to improve its national firewall against attacks by terrorist groups, especially the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) blamed for the July 15 coup attempt. Unlike other terrorist groups that mostly exploit impoverished youths, FETÖ draws followers from all walks of life, from shopkeepers to highly skilled IT experts.

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