Is it just me, or is Turkey one of the most interesting countries on the planet right now?
Whether it’s indulging in geopolitical gamesmanship over US intervention in Syria, playing the Kurds off against ISIS, dealing with what is beginning to look very much like a nascent civil war, line-editing the nation’s journalists, or simply trying desperately to keep the lid on tensions between secular and religious factions, the government of Turkey has a hand in every important political pot. And they’re all boiling over at once.
Cue Redhack, a truly badass Marxist-Leninist hacking crew that was founded way back in 1997.
They don’t strike often, but when they do, they make it count; in this case, to the tune of $670 billion in electricity bills wiped out. The hack hearkens back to their very first publicly claimed victory: the 2005 attack against the Istanbul Police Department, where they erased all outstanding traffic fines.
The Turkish government was quick to claim that debts were not truly erased, and that they had backups of everything, so don’t go throwing any Free Power parties just yet, and hackers are bad, m’kay? A government statement claimed “Our system doesn’t allow a bill to be deleted permanently. The original copies of bills are stored at TEİAŞ. The debt that is allegedly written off was collected on Oct. 27.”
[UPDATED TO ADD: There has also been confusion around the actual financial damage done. Hurriyet Daily reported a loss of only $1.5 million lira, which is the number the government released in a statement on the utility website. When asked specifically about this reporting discrepancy, Redhack was adamant: the hack was 1.5 trillion lira, or $675 billion at today’s exchange rate.]
Still, the hack is much more than a propaganda victory. Redhack also released active username/password combos which it encouraged interested parties to play with before the government could shut them down. And a video, showing how team members used the passwords to drill ever-deeper into the system and change the database at will.
We spoke to Redhack’s English-speaking spokesperson about the hack, the motivation, and the ultimate goals of the crew. A united, philosophically motivated crew of high-level, experienced hackers is every government’s worst nightmare, and thus the Redhack action will be picked over by government contractors and security professionals around the world for what it can tell us.
S/he told us that the crew had first accessed the website’s back end several weeks ago, but spent some time lying dormant, then several days on surveillance and poking around. Redhack is the opposite of an impulsive, opportunistic crew, which is a significant part of the reason they’ve been around for nearly twenty years.
“We have played around in the system over a week,” they told us.
The hacks were motivated by green consciousness and (ironically) support for the rule of law. “We go along with the current agenda in Turkey [generally speaking but] decided to do something against the destruction of the environment … in Validebag where green area was destroyed to build a mosque. We not against a mosque, but this area was historical and [the] current government sells and destroys anything for profit. Another one is in Yirca [where a] plot of land with thousands of olive trees were destroyed to build [a] power plant. Again through privitisation with the help of the government. In both cases there were on going court cases but although it wasn’t finalized [the] destruction took place.”
“The current government is [the] enemy of the environment and humanity.”
Current Turkish president Erdoğan is the focus of much activist ire in the country, both for his executive decisions and for his violent and destructive quashing of public protests, which have previously drawn the attention of the world and the actions of Anonymous via #OpTurkey. “He is on route to be a ruthless dictator. Every single day people are killed by the police and not a single person in authority brought in front of the justice system.”
Redhack declined to specify the vector of attack in this particular hack, citing its ongoing usefulness. “Hack was coordinated through our secret internal communication network. We would prefer not to talk about the vulnerability as this would give a clue to the government for the future hacks. We have played with the system as much as we can and deleted files and wiped debts of various distributors of the cities. [The] main aim in this hack was to give access to the public/hackers and leave them the decision to do what ever they like. The program was closed for few days as a result. They now have to go through hard work to restore their system and correct the damage done.”
When asked about future plans, the hacker was nonchalant. “We will continue our action despite a threat against us, threats to kill us or capture us and imprison us for long period. We have been declared a terrorist organisation and thanks to Twitter bowing down to the Turkish government our main account @theredhack [is] censored in Turkey.” Anarchist hackers Telecomix have been working for more than a year to circumvent Turkish government censorship, and the Twitter feed can of course be viewed from within the country provided the user runs a VPN, thus appearing to come from a different country.
Contrary to public expectation, the hack was not motivated by the crisis in next-door Syria, which they dismissed as a bunch of meddling foreigners carving up turf, British Empire-style. “Turkey is a puppet state of imperialistic powers. What happens in Syria at the moment is part of [the] great Middle East project of Imperialism to divide the countries into small states to control them in the way they like and make them bound to themselves, economically and politically.” The Turks, we are given to understand, have plenty of issues to deal with at home, civil war in neighbouring countries aside.
They do, however, support the Kurdish fighters. “Kurds in the region have shown great courage to fight against ISIS and proved that they are determined to gain autonomy. We support any oppressed nations for their self-determination and peace.”
We asked, finally, if Redhack had a message for the world. And boy, do they!
We are a hackers collective only to work for the needs of the people and show to the corrupt system that no one is untouchable. Our previous hacks have proved this numerous times.
Greetings to our Anonymous brothers and Jeremy Hammond.
Hackers of the world unite against tyrants.We have nothing to lose but our keyboards.