Maybe some of you fell victim this week to a very public example of the disturbing rise in Turkish ‘hacktivism’, or government-sponsored cyber-disruption, call it what you will?
If you aren’t on top of European news, there is a developing spat between Turkey, Germany and more seriously Holland. The German and Dutch governments (and Swiss and Austrian for that matter) have refused permission for Turkish politicians to fly to their countries to address Turkish ex-pats living in those countries on the matter of an upcoming Turkish referendum (in which the ex-pats will be permitted to vote) regarding constitutional amendments including Presidential powers. If you are a news geek, details of the referendum are here.
The refusal of Germany and Holland, which are both home to a significant number of Turkish folk (4.5 million in Western Europe), to admit the ministers has clearly put out the noses of many Turkish back home, possibly including the very cuddly, all round nice guy and man of the people Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who upon hearing the news declared the Dutch and Germans were ‘Nazis’.
The local Turks were being encouraged to demonstrate in front of their consulates in both countries. These orchestrated protests were designed to engineer divisions between Europe and Turkey, or so the press say.
Shortly after the Dutch refusal, the websites of Dutch airports were subject to a DDOS attack and then, somewhat unbelievably, the unknown Turkish ‘hacktivists’ hacked a truckload of Twitter accounts via a third-party application ‘Twitter Counter’ and used them to send messages declaring the Germans and Dutch to be ‘Nazis’, accompanied with swastikas. Charming indeed.
What this issue has brought to light is the potential access to Twitter accounts from third-party services. In this case the third-party does not (or at least claim not to) store any user credentials, which is a relief.
Twitter users are urged to go to settings/apps and review the permissions of third party applications and to delete any apps, which they no longer use or are unknown.
Our friend Graham Cluley’s account was compromised and he has a very nice write-up here.
At our StormCloud event last month we talked about the escalation in state sponsored hacking that we would see this year. With both this and the FBI’s announcement that the Russians (surprise!) were behind the Yahoo attacks, including charging two Russian spies (in absentia, obvs), we are clearly at the dawn of a new cyber world.
If you would like to discuss matters Turkish, including the terrible demise of the Efes Kebab House on Great Titchfield Street (about which we are in mourning), Twitter security or security in general, please contact us at: [email protected] or call 020 7517 3900.
On a lighter note we wish all of you, your friends and families a very Happy St Patrick’s Day.
I suspect part of the issue is that states do not have to directly sponsor hacking. With the availability of off-the-shelf hacking tools and hacking-as-a-service all that a state needs to do is act as agitator. The technically able and motivated will soon take action on behalf of the state. This air-gap between the state and the hacking groups provides a degree of plausible deniability. This is hardly a new political tactic, it has just become even more effective with the use of technology.
It would be useful if the makers of all application that allowed plug-ins automatically turned off access after a defined period of disuse. I am pretty sure that IFTTT does this on some of its channels.
Absolutely. Plausible deniability.
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