Is the Turkish state ready to hire nerds for cyber wars?

Is the Turkish state ready to hire nerds for cyber wars?

“From a military standpoint, it would be fair to say that a high-profile cyber weapon is the combination of a nuclear weapon, a biological weapon, a time bomb, an anti-radiation missile, special forces and a medieval sword.”

Scary, isn’t it? That’s how Can Kasapoğlu from the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM) described the power of cyber weapons. Kasapoğlu detailed his description in a recent report prepared by EDAM: 

“A high-profile cyber weapon resembles a nuclear weapon in its ability to devastate critical national infrastructure and is similar to a biological weapon in its intelligence requirements for the detection and identification of a strike. Cyber weapons might be put in the same basket as anti-radiation missiles because of their ability to track signals and pave the ground for follow-up strikes. Because cyber weapons are clandestine operation assets, they are comparable to modern special forces. Finally, in terms of deterrence and defense versus offense calculus, cyber weapons can be likened to a medieval knight’s sword in that they cannot be deterred or matched solely by handling a shield.”

In short, cyber warfare is an extremely complex phenomenon and the latest wave of attacks has shown that Turkey has to excel in that warfare. 

“Turkey’s problem is not access to technologies; Turkey’s issue is about a mental change,” Salih Bıçakcı, another contributor to the report, told me. 

“Actually, we have great potential as far as access to technology is concerned. There is a hunger to learn. We adapt fast to technological changes; whenever there is a new version, we are among the first to rush to get it,” said Bıçakcı.

Cyber warfare requires a different kind of “human resources” management. Hierarchy is sacred in the Turkish state and army structure. But in our age, older generations need to give way to younger generations who are using computers like they are an extension of their hands. In addition, they should not be forced to adapt to the traditional civil service culture.

“First of all, the private sector gets hold of a talented person by paying much more than what the state can offer,” said Bıçakcı. “But suppose the person decides to stay with the state? Then you tell him or her how to get dressed, what to wear, what kind of a hairstyle he/she should have, whether he/she can have piercings or tattoos,” said Bıçakcı.

There is another problem in the army and the police. Just as the person is trained let’s say in the General Chief of Staff’s cyber command, due to the obligation to serve in the east, that person ends up holding guns in the field instead of getting prepared for cyber defense.

Cyber warfare requires outside-of-the-box thinking. Can the government provide that sort of freedom and flexibility?

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan promised when he was prime minister to raise devout generations. It is no secret that if you want to get promoted in the state you need to make sure that everyone sees you going to Friday prayer. 

We have come across school teachers obsessed by the height of the skirts of their students. The Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) has issued a fatwa stating that tattoos are not in accordance with Islam, adding also that Islam disapproved of men wearing earrings and other such pieces of jewelry. 

The state might need a devout Muslim, an expert on Islam to monitor and analyze the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)-affiliated cyber-caliphate’s activities, but also perhaps an atheist who might excel at keeping up with the fast changing technologies or game theory. Or, vice versa: An atheist expert on Islamic radicalism and a devout Muslim who can be a technological junkie.

Secular administration and recognizing diversity is an asset, not a liability.