Cyber centres fighting on all fronts

Cyber centres fighting on all fronts

A short video released last year by the Royal Thai Navy claimed to show details of the 'cyber warfare' team. (Video grab via YouTube)
A short video released last year by the Royal Thai Navy claimed to show details of the 'cyber warfare' team. (Video grab via YouTube)

Having been set up for two years under the Defence Ministry's policy, the so-called cyber war centres of the Royal Thai Armed Forces are fully capable of countering cyber threats from within and outside of the country, sources say.

The Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters (RTAFH) and the three armed forces run their own "cyber centres", with the Army's cyber division serving as the lead centre.

Located in the basement of the RTAFH on Chaeng Watthana Road, the army's cyber division is equipped with military experts in cyberspace who have undergone training in Thailand and overseas and the latest technology.

The army last week changed the name of its technology and communications centre to the cyber centre. The name change followed a major upgrade at the facility of both equipment and personnel.

Although not intended to handle political conflicts in cyberspace, the centre has aided state efforts to tackle issues online such as lese majeste comments. That's why the centre has been perceived as taking aim at political issues, according to experts.

Army commander Chalermchai Sitthisart insisted the cyber centre was established to cope with escalating cyber threats that pertain to the hacking and spreading of misleading rumours online, and national security.

"Also, websites offending the royal institution, and online acts in violation of Section 112 of the Criminal Code [for lese majeste] need to be checked," said Gen Chalermchai.

Ritthi Intharawut, director of the army's cyber centre, said the main duty of the centre is to create a system to prevent hacking into the army's websites and information databases, fight against other threats and develop the army's computer and internet system.

The centre has also been training soldiers on cyber security, he said.

Information Operation is another area the centre has been overseeing, with the aim of improving public understanding via the dissemination of news and information, he said.

Fending off cyber attacks and cyber terrorism from outside of the country is also a priority, he said, adding that the ideals and propaganda of terrorists are easily disseminated over the internet.

Maj Gen Ritthi said the centre constantly monitors websites which are sources of distorted information and doctored images undermining internal security and the monarchy. When those threats are detected, the RTAF alerts the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society and the Royal Thai Police, he said.

Due to a large number of websites and Facebook pages containing security threats and lese majeste violations, the armed forces' cyber centres have been divided up to monitor them separately, said an army source.

The Signal Department is involved in similar work, employing many capable programmers, dubbed "cyber warriors", said the source. In addition, the Internal Security Operations Command's coordination and operation Centre No.1 is involved in the military's cyber work.

Wisanu Traiphum, the Centre No.1 director, said his centre is linked to the armed forces' cyber centres, although it has limited resources. Its main charge is to keep a look out for websites insulting the monarchy.

Despite being able to deal with cyber threats on a large scale, the armed forces' cyber centres typically deal with issues on the domestic front, said a source at the RTAFH.

And now the operators of Line and Facebook have agreed to cooperate with the government in fighting the spread of improper and offending messages. The armed forces' cyber centres are facing an even bigger workload, said the source. "We don't spy on people's Line conversations. We only check cases for false rumours," Gen Chalermchai.

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