It was late afternoon, some months ago, when a Greek construction company’s employee, who is in charge of managing E.U. projects, had to deal with a strange situation. Instead of her homepage in the browser, the red flag of Turkey appeared. Firstly she tried to retype the correct address, but she was again redirected in the same Turkish link. After a few seconds the Turkish national anthem was being played in her speakers. Immediately she contacted with the company that was servicing their web page. They identified that it was a national issue and they shut down the web page before trying to secure the vulnerable spot that the Turkish hacker had took advantage of.
At the same time, the same team had attacked to, at least, four more Greek companies, while an other team, called themselves “Turkish hack team”, uploaded free to the internet lists with personal data of personnel working to Ministries and Universities.
Turkish hackers stated that these actions were consequences of the recent violation of their regional borders by two Greek soldiers that were captured. “If Greece does not comply and does not stop to violate our borders, then we will unleash an massive cyber-attack”.
“Threats like these are not something new” explains a member of a cyber-security company in Athens. “All these are included in the well-known conflict between Greek and Turkish hackers, especially in diplomatic intense periods” he adds. He knows how things are going because he was acting as a hacker, before joining the opposite side. At his first steps as a hacker, he was following a famous “idol” for him, who was hacking web pages of the government of FYROM.
He also recalls that, in intense periods with Turkey, these attacks were bidirectional. “It was not something organized, but one from us might have felt like a national hero and acted accordingly. The same is happening now”, he explains.
Cyber-attacks like these are subject of research of an investment bank’s cyber security department. A member of it, accepted the invitation to talk, with anonimization, about the analysis he is doing. ”These attacks are coming from simple citizens, mostly young with an inclination to computer programming. They express their patriotism and their nationalism through these attacks and are characterized as not that critical”.
But, cyber attacks between Greece and Turkey (and also between other nations with intense relationships) are being monitored by his team because: “Although, in theory, these hackers are acting individually, they can be used by their countries, Russia is an example!” He is describing the cyber-attack in the embassy of Qatar in Cyprus two years ago. After the investigation, it turned up that the independent Russian hacker team had probably the guidelines and the support of their country targeting the ministry of Exterior of Cyprus through the embassy. Their goal was to gain access to data referring on deals about the investigation of possible energy recourses under Cyprus sea borders.
“Such attacks, of cyber espionage and collect of information are always more intense in economical or diplomatic crisis, so countries like Greece should be properly prepared in national level”, he explains.
This is something that commodore Antonopoulos knew and was anxious about already by 1997. “Cyber security was something exotic back then” he explains. “Some countries had already started to investigate, but it was still a confidential sector”.
Finally, in 2000 a small cyber security team was created. Their job was to protect the ministry of National Security and the Military from cyber attacks. Antonopoulos retired 10 years later, but he was lucky to watch this team as it grew up (it belongs to the central military agency now), before he leaves. An accomplishment of the team was the first position in a NATO competition that took place in 2009. According to the department of the Military cyber-security, “this team has been evolved and can be compared to the army’s Special Forces. They just use different weapons”, they claim.
Commodore Antonopoulos keeps on tracking the news about cyber security, and based on the cyber attacked that Estonia has suffered in 2007, he now knows what is the real danger “If ever Greece gets in a war situation, then for sure a cyber war would have been started way before, in order to weaken our defences”. Because of it, he suggests that we should be really cautious about any incident even though it may seem harmless. In correspondence, he knows very well that in periods of tension it is very easy for an individual hacker to raise alertness. “What I am afraid of most, is not the severity of an attack, but the way that the opposite side may present it and possible benefit from it, and finally something almost innocent may turn up to a serious situation”, he explains.