U.S-based Turkish Activist Attempted to Hack Austrian Government Sites

Austrian intelligence confirmed that they have tracked down a Turkish hacker who attacked multiple government websites, including the Vienna airport, the defense and foreign ministries, the national bank, and parliament over the last few months. While most of the attacks were unsuccessful, the defense ministry website was knocked offline for several hours. The Turkish hacker, identified by authorities as Arslan A, apparently directed his attacks on Austrian ministries – and other countries he considered hostile to Turkey – from his home in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

The Cipher Take: While the cyber attacks themselves were not successful in breaching or significantly disrupting the functions of the Austrian government, this case demonstrates multiple important dynamics of cyber operations. The first is that the hacker was essentially motivated by patriotism and considered himself a proxy of the Turkish government, which has been strongly criticized by the Austrian government for human rights abuses. Austria has also opposed Turkey’s bid to join the EU. This phenomenon of a patriotic hacker – as opposed to one solely driven by profit – acting as a de facto proxy for an unwitting state is one seen all over cyberspace. The second is that by using the United States as his home base, the Turkish hacker further complicated the attribution process – frustrating the Austrian internal intelligence agency attempting to catch the hacker in the act, and track the digital evidence back to his base of operations in order to build a strong criminal case. Finally, the situation also highlights the question of what responsibility the United States, or any country, has in halting cyber attacks emanating from within its borders.


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