New face of Turkish cyber defense, Octopus to stamp out threats

Published 27.12.2018 21:12
Updated 28.12.2018 08:00

Octopus, or Ahtapot in Turkish, a national cyber defense solution, looks to expand its use in the public sector. The cybersecurity system, credited with preventing a cyberattack targeting one of the commands of the Turkish Armed Forces, has been serving as a military cybersecurity system since it was launched in 2016. Its limited use in some public agencies and municipalities will soon expand and will include more institutions, officials say. Ahtapot hit the headlines Wednesday when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced its effective role in defense. Erdoğan said the system "we developed" stopped a cyberattack targeting a command and was included in an upcoming NATO cybersecurity exercise due to its efficiency.

The system, jointly run by Academic Network and Information Center at Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) and private sector, started originally to provide protection against cyberattacks for all information systems with in-depth defense thanks to multiple layers of security. It relies on Pardus, an open-source local operating system in a bid to avoid outside threats that cannot be contained. An easy-to-use guide, features like firewall, web applications, email, attack detection, early warning against cyberattacks, secure connection and secure internet access benefiting from open-source technologies provide an integrated solution for cybersecurity.

The Turkish Armed Forces had started to use Octopus in April 2016 and the system is being tested for civilian use for the first time this year, at Eyüpsultan Municipality of Istanbul. It is expected to be installed in more places serving in the public sector, with IT support.

The system faced its most serious challenge last February. Between Feb. 3 and Feb. 6, it managed to fend off a distributed denial of service attacks on the computers of a branch of the Turkish Armed Forces. This paved the way for the system to participate in NATO's The Coalition Warrior Interoperability Exploration, Experimentation, Examination, Exercise (CWIX), an interoperability exercise held between June 10 and June 29.

Last summer, Turkey's Undersecretariat of Defense Industry, the leading authority in cyber defense for the public sector and military, had launched Cybersecurity Cluster, which brought together state institutions, the private sector, ordinary citizens and universities in a bid to bolster defenses.

Turkey has been the target of several large-scale cyberattacks in the last 10 years. International hacker collective Anonymous targeted the country in 2011 and 2012 with attacks on the top telecoms watchdog. Hundreds of thousands of websites registered under Turkey's top-level website domain ".tr" also experienced problems with distributed denial of service (DDoS) cyberattacks that affected internet speeds for two weeks.

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