Turkey: Rift with Russia inciting hackers

Turkey: Rift with Russia inciting hackers
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Tensions between Turkey and Russia may have spurred hackers to take down hundreds of thousands of Turkish websites in mid-December, the country’s technology minister said Monday.

“The crisis with Russia and other developments in the region could have incited this [cyberattack],” Science, Industry and Technology Minister Fikri Işık told a local Turkish paper, according to Hurriyet Daily News, the country’s main English-language news organization.

The fraught Turkey-Russia relationship was strained in November when Turkey shot down a Russian military jet on its Syrian border.

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Turkey claims the plane encroached on Turkish airspace and received multiple warnings before it was shot. But Russian President Vladimir Putin called the incident a “stab in the back” committed by “accomplices of terrorists.”

Roughly two weeks after the incident, hackers began bombarding Turkish servers with a series of distributed denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, in which websites are overwhelmed with massive volumes of fake traffic.

The week-long assault affected roughly 400,000 websites, forcing the Turkish government to cut off all foreign Internet traffic to “.tr” websites.

Last week, the hacking collective Anonymous took credit for the digital onslaught, one of the most intense Turkey has ever faced. They said the campaign was to protest Turkey’s alleged support of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria, something the government has repeatedly denied. Russian officials have made similar allegations.

In a video, Anonymous threatened to go after the country’s airports, military assets and banking system next unless Turkey changed course.

Işık, the Turkish technology minister, said the country was prepared for any potential attacks.

“All necessary measures are being taken,” he said.

Since the attacks, Turkey has launched a $2 million project to assess and secure the cyber defense of the country’s critical infrastructure.

“We closely watch developments and are in coordination with the Transportation Ministry in regard to necessary measures needed to be taken,” Işık said.

Recent reports also claimed that Turkish activist hackers went after Russia’s communications minister, temporarily knocking his Instagram account offline on Sunday.

The account for the self-named "Börteçine Cyber Team" features Turkish flags and a portrait of Turkey's founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.