Region joins forces to prepare for cyber attacks


Southeast Europe countries enhance protection measures after a surge in cyber attacks.

By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest -- 27/03/13


Regional co-operation is crucial to fighting cyber crime, experts said. [AFP]

Southeast and Eastern Europe have been the recent target of a series of cyber attacks, which prompted authorities to counter with a series of measures including international and regional co-operation.

Last month, Romania was hit by the worst such attack in its post-communist history.

According to Russian company Kaspersky Labs which discovered the attack, the group has been stealing information about natural resources from high-level government computers around the world since 2007.

"The attack … has a [large] impact due to its superior technological level which allows it to better dissimulate and take over the compromised network with a view to extract information," Sorin Sava, spokesman of the Romanian Home Intelligence Service, told SETimes.

In February 2012, Greek police arrested an 18-year-old suspected of hacking into the justice ministry's website, an attack claimed by online hackers group Anonymous.

The hackers posted a statement on the ministry website to protest austerity measures in Greece and the government's decision to back an international anti-piracy pact.

In October of 2012, Anonymous claimed responsibility for a cyber attack on the finance ministry's website, and said it gained access classified documents and correspondence with the country's international lenders.

At a conference in 2012, Balkan police chiefs agreed that international police co-operation is necessary to successfully fight cyber crime. The conference was organised by Montenegro police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and Southeast Europe Police Chief Association.

The key to a successful response to the growing crime lies in co-operation on all levels, both multilateral and bilateral, especially in co-operation between police organisations in the region and EU countries, Montenegrin Prime Minister Igor Luksic said.

According to experts, co-operation, as well as training, is needed to adequately address computer-conducted crime, which increasingly affects citizens' property and safety.

"The current co-operation is reflected in the data and information exchange and joint training. We have collaborated with each law enforcement agency in the region and co-operation is very good," Vladimir Urosevic, the chief of the electronic crime department in the Serbian police, told SETimes.

"Cyber crime is one of the most serious and dynamic threats against national security of Romania and its allies," Sava said.

The Romanian Home Intelligence Service prioritises cyber security as an important component of national security, in close co-operation with other regional institutions and foreign partners, as well as private entities.

Romania has adopted its cyber-security strategy to be in full compliance with the EU action plan. The national strategy underlines the importance of state-private partnership and foreign co-operation in fighting the growing crime, and calls for the development of risk management and cyber-attack response capabilities while raising awareness among the population.

In Turkey, government websites have been an ever-growing subject of cyber attacks from groups including RedHack, Anonymous and local hacker groups, which are reportedly targeting the country's domestic and foreign policy moves.

Last year the foreign ministry website was subject to a cyber attack by a local group that stole the personal data of foreign diplomats serving in Turkey. Internet censorship, in the country where 55 million people are online, remains a hot topic for the hackers, who have also seized several justice ministry and national police department webpages.

In 2010, Turkey incorporated "cyber security threats" into its national strategy and has sped up its efforts to improve its defense against virtual attacks. However, parliament has not yet ratified the Council of Europe's Convention on Cybercrime, so it cannot take any action against cyber attacks from third countries.

In December 2012, the country established its first Cyber Security Board under the ministry of transport and communication, in order to determine what measures should be taken to boost cyber security and how they will be implemented.

Turkey is also trying to expand cyber-security training to universities, and protect the country's highways and bridges' smart systems against cyber attacks.

"Cyber security is a national priority for Turkey and all relevant parties, not only public sector but also individuals and private sector, should take necessary preventive measures and be aware of that threat," Tayfun Acarer, head of Turkey's Telecommunications Authority, told SETimes.

He also said that more institutions should participate into the cyber security exercises in order to test themselves.

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With funds from the EU, the Council of Europe launched the Regional Co-operation against Cyber-Crime initiative in November 2010. The project, which involves countries in the Western Balkans and Turkey, and partners with Romania and Slovenia, is set to end next month.

In order to strengthen the capacities of the Balkan countries, the initiative has worked to enhance regional and international law enforcement and judicial co-operation against cyber crime.

Under the project, the ministers of security and internal affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey agreed to partner in the struggle against cyber-crime.

Correspondent Menekse Tokyay in Istanbul contributed to this report.

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