Cyber Attacks in Cuba

By Alexander Londres

HAVANA TIMES — Cubans are “bad bugs”. Ever since we were children, we have heard this repeated it over and over again, that we’ve become convinced of this. However, we say “bad” in a figurative sense, not because of the viciousness of our race, or something similar.

What we’re referring to in this phrase, more than anything else, is our inventiveness to find a solution to everyday problems, alternatives to get us out of tough situations; because we don’t give in and we are “hard to kill”.

Don’t let anybody cast doubt on the fact that we are “pure intelligence”. Constant shortages and daily needs have made us self-learned scientists, innovators par excellence. From inventing to live, we are now making a living off of inventing.

Day-to-day life in Cuba is irrefutable proof of this. It’s undeniable proof of what we can bear, or in other words, our creative capacity to resist – it sounds better put like this. If an essential condition for prehistoric man’s survival was learning to adapt to his environment, I believe that we Cubans are the direct descendents of the most outstanding individuals in this matter. Just look at how quickly we adapt!

And going beyond the adaptation process, we even specialize in taking advantage of the matter at hand, whatever it might be.

A few years ago, we were still dreaming about the Internet. Now, with the opening of a large number of public pay-for WIFI areas across the country, we are moving from being cyber-illiterates to becoming cyber-experts, some of us – the most intelligent, of course – are also taking advantage of adventures in cyberspace.

Photo: Juan Suarez

As such, precisely because of the profit we want to get out of everything, a new undeclared, read illegal, self-employed professional has popped up, according to what detractors of extra-institutional work label it.

It takes place “behind the curtain”: the connector / connection sharer enables interested people to surf the web via his own account on the Nauta platform for a lower price than the rate officially fixed by the supplier (ETECSA) – the only gateway available in Cuba for these purposes, outside of some state institutions companies and education centers.

How does this work? Well, the facilitator person activates their account, which they have to pay 1.50 CUC per hour for, to then create and share a new WIFI point, from their own device, which they can connect various internet users to, who are previously contacted by their helpers, and who are only charged 1 CUC for the same amount of time.

Therefore, at the end of the working day they have earned a lot more than 100% of their initial investment. Meanwhile, their clients have saved 0.50 CUC for every 60 minutes of connection, when compared to what they would have spent by connecting the “official” way. [1 CUC = 1.15 USD]

This “easier” access, read here: cheaper, has allowed a greater increase in “attacks”, premeditated sieges of acquaintances, friends, relatives or just the contacts on their social media accounts like Facebook, in order to get somebody to top up their mobile phone account online.

However, we are becoming terrorists.

Once a month, when ETECSA opens up the opportunity to top up phone credit from abroad – a clever way to get your hands on foreign hard currency – we commit ourselves body and soul, and with the professional intervention of our favorite connector, launch “the bomb” and wait for it to explode in a kind of stategic ambush, adorned with sudden declarations of love or even mournful regrets, until we manage to get the victim to top up the account a little (always more than 20 CUC).

All we need is for Cuba’s telecommunications consortium – never monopoly – to make an announcement to its customers via SMS, on their web page or on its social media accounts and that’s it:  Grab the macheteee! (We shout, like Elpidio would, a popular Cuban cartoon character.)

And suddenly the marathon of requests left, right and center begins as part of an aggressive campaign of deliberate or random messages, until we see that somebody, on the other side of the Internet, feels sorry for the scarce telephone credit on the account, and contribute to making funds available from the aforementioned telephone company which, by the way, should also note a significant swelling of their coffers per month.

Photo: Juan Suarez

Oh, holy ETECSA! On the one hand, we want to canonize it, due to its fortunate idea of implementing top ups from abroad, and because of the relief that this means for the pockets of those of us who benefit. On the other hand, however, we wouldn’t think twice about criticizing it, because of its out-dated equipment, the insecure network and it’s still limited service.

However, it’s already a well-known fact that here on this island, we don’t usually give up. And much less when it has something to do with our financial situation – top ups, in this case. The new cyber-mafia sit in parks and other WIFI spots and circumstantially and eventually most Cuban mobile customers see ourselves obliged to belong in order to “manage” the top up – and keep the fighting spirit of the Tainos intact, which was then developed by the Mambises and then handed down to us, from generation to generation.

So, purely because of our attachment to our historic inheritance, it is almost impossible for us to stop when faced with a barrier, a blockade – domestic or foreign.

We are a country of fighters.

Until life and ETECSA give us a different reality – more affordable and accessible telecommunication services – the poorest people, who can’t keep their mobile service active with their wages, will have the best strategy to fight the expense of having a cell phone by resorting to cyber-attacks. We will then keep on looking for a way to get more people to pay – this is how the cyber-mafia has come to exist – for a service which is basic in the rest of the world, but continues to be similar to an act of immolation, of self-inflicted terrorism here in Cuba.

In other words, we have the most convincing excuse to get mixed up in a type of cyber-attack, a few days a month.

2 thoughts on “Cyber Attacks in Cuba

  • At least there is some connection to outside world.

  • Every day there are more and more phone zombies. The world is becoming a strange and lonely place for those of us who do not want to live their lives digitally.

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