Statement by Turkey at the Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting on Cyber-Attacks Against Critical Infrastructure

Bilge Koçyiğit Grba 26.08.2020
Mr. President,

I would like to thank Indonesia for organizing this Arria-formula meeting on a pertinent subject and at a critical time. Our appreciation also goes to the co-organizers and the distinguished briefers.

With the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic we have rediscovered the essential role that the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) play in our lives. The pandemic has changed our daily lives dramatically, but with the help of ICTs we were able to adapt ourselves to the new realities. E-trade, remote access and video-conference applications as well as other ICT tools provided the basis for remote working and online education during this challenging period.

The pandemic has also highlighted our vulnerabilities in the face of malicious use of ICTs and cyber attacks. While we all struggled to adapt to the “new normal”, we also had to focus on securing the critical infrastructure.

Unfortunately, cyber threats are constantly increasing in number, complexity and severity. Especially in vital sectors such as health, telecommunications, finance and energy, these threats risk having destabilizing effects, to the level of threatening international peace and security.

Turkey’s institutions have detected increased number of vulnerabilities with the COVID outbreak, especially due to the remote working methods. Cyber threats targeting critical infrastructure such as coronavirus–related malware and “phishing” attacks have been remarkable during this period. This has only reaffirmed the relevance of one of the strategic pillars of our National Cyber Security and Action Plan, which is strengthening cyber defence and protection of critical infrastructure.

Mr. President,

Turkey is concerned about the potential human cost of cyber operations on critical civilian infrastructure, including health infrastructure. The malicious cyber operations targeting health-care facilities in some countries during the pandemic have amplified our concerns.

For this reason, we need to increase our efforts to promote responsible state behavior in cyber space. The existing dialogue and cooperation structures under the UN are significant vehicles for this purpose. It is equally important to include all the relevant stakeholders in such a dialogue.

Turkey supports the applicability of international law, especially the UN Charter in cyber space. We can build on the previous work undertaken within the UN system and find ways to better implement rules, norms and principles for responsible state behaviour. There is also a need to create a common understanding on cyber threats. We hope that we will make progress in producing tangible results in the coming period.

While rules and norms are crucial, they do not in and of themselves protect critical infrastructure. Capacity building efforts need to be strengthened for effective implementation. In this context, the UN and regional organizations can promote exchange programs for cybersecurity experts and establish common training platforms. In addition, international exercises must be encouraged in order to enhance national cyber incident preparedness and response capacities.

Turkey will continue to engage in and contribute to discussions on cyber security.

Thank you.