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/ Lamasiel Gutierrez Romero, Cuban Correspondent in Europe
On the UCI, Cyber War, Information Technologies and Optical Fibre Cable
The Cuban University of Computer Sciences (UCI) has become the main weapon of the communist regime in the fight against Cuban dissidents, bloggers and independent journalists.
The university was founded in 2002 by order of Fidel Castro with the aim to support development of computer sciences and computerization of the country. The main building of the UCI is located in the Havana municipality of La Lisa and is attended by some 10,000 students. Over 42,000 students are then enrolled in schools of the same type throughout the country.
The university campus, which consists of 80 buildings, was built in just 106 days on an area of 72 hectares. The entrance to the campus is under strict control and any outside workers need special passes enabling them to enter.
Children selected to study at IT schools are first checked on, along with their families, and are only admitted to the school if they meet the required reliability parameters; only children of the government elite are
spared from investigation.
As the UCI statutes stipulate, the study program has been designed to train experts in cyber warfare and espionage. It's objective is:
First, to safeguard and protect Cuban networks and create, design and maintain internet websites. Second, to produce the smartest brains that will participate in the government's cyber warfare program and in the use of offensive and defensive tools, which will go hand in hand with the armed forces and the Ministry of Interior.
Each UCI student is assigned a 100 MB monthly quota, which they must manage really well to be able to maintain their accounts on social networks like Twitter and Facebook; yet, they can use them exclusively to fulfil the Communist Party's objectives, i.e., in defence of the Revolution.
It's a paradox that in a country like Cuba, where there is almost zero access to information and hundreds of internet websites are censored every day, there is a school of computing, where illegal access to the Internet is considered a crime and where all students and teachers are under absolute control of the State.
Recently, a group of students and teachers has been expelled from the UCI on account of having defied the regime by creating tools for free navigation on the Internet outside the allocated time, which has been condemned as an act of mocking the strict control exercised over them by the State.
The expelled students created secret chat program using servers located directly in the school. Passwords and access accounts were shared among hundreds of people inside and outside the program.
The supposed future guards of the virtual border broke into security systems banning the Cubans from free access to the Internet.
The high command of the Cuban Security Forces has condemned their activity as a series of hacking attacks on the security apparatus and on the IT security program itself, as well as unauthorized use of the cyber warfare tools developed only for persons of high political reliability.
As a consequence, the regime launched a video boasting of the secrecy of the IT security program and cyber warfare, informing about the real goals of the UCI and warning against such serious acts of indiscipline, which are punished by the expulsion of the students perpetrating them.
The video explains in detail the methods that the students used to obtain secret codes and passwords. These included hacking tools and participation in various internet forums and websites with unauthorized access, to which the regime didn't give an official permission.
Many of the students and teachers were shown in the video and were publicly accused of having committed what the regime considers a crime, for example, retrieval and dissemination of information and communication with unauthorized persons from abroad.
At the end of the video, general Alejandro Ronda Marrero, head of the IT Networks Security Department of the Ministry of Information Technologies and Communication, appeals to young IT experts to fight against such activities.
Electronic Development and Cyber Warfare
There are several places in Cuba where cyber warfare and electronic espionage is developed. They include Bejucal in Havana and Wajay in Santiago de Cuba.
The cost of the Bejucal centre, which employs an average of 1,100 engineers and technicians, amounts to USD 750 million. The centre has been created for the purposes of electronic espionage including spying, eavesdropping, monitoring of e-mail conversation, introduction of malware in form of viruses that destroy computers, worms and logic bombs, and other tools used to destroy computer systems.
The Bejucal centre is governed by the general directorate of the intelligence forces of the Ministry of Interior.
Other, less important centres are smaller and focus on radio broadcasting. One of them, whose cost amounts to some USD 60 million, is located on a street linking the 11th and 13th street in the Havana district of Vedado.
The offices located there are known as “electronic warfare battalion to interfere with Radio and TV Marti”.
Other centre in Havana - the Wajay, runs interference and environmental operations, whose cost amounts to USD 15 million.
The Cojimar electronic complex is dedicated to espionage and experiments with electronic weapons. Its cost amounts to USD 20 million.
The electronic complex of Santiago de Cuba, which costs approximately USD 10 million, is used for short-wave radio interference.
Technology Export to Venezuela
With regard to the export of knowledge and information technologies, the Cuban government has concluded agreements with countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), in particular with Venezuela, which has been using comprehensive technology solutions created by the UCI.
The UCI has also been providing support to the Cuban Medical Mission in Venezuela, ensuring the operation of its computer systems.
Each Cuban Medical Mission operating in any of the comprehensive diagnostic centres or high-tech medical centres in Venezuela employs a freshly graduated UCI student, who is in charge of all its IT-related issues.
The UCI also controls all electronic processes in Venezuela, including elections.
Analysts of Cuba-Venezuela relations assert that the full cost of the construction of the UCI was paid by the Venezuelan government. They also claim that it's fairly easy to guess who's in control of the election in Venezuela, given that such an important IT system has been delivered by Cuba and the fact that an optical fibre cable has been installed between Caracas and Havana.
Optical Fibre Cable
The installation of an optical fibre cable between Caracas and Havana, which was paid by Venezuela, has lead to an increase in the speed of the Internet connection in Cuba.
As the current Deputy Minister of Information Technologies and Communications, Boris Moreno, said, the cable will be put to service in the coming months with the aim to improve Internet access in Cuban schools, assistance centres, cultural centres, hospitals and libraries. The cable will be also used for the transmission of satellite services.
Also, the Venezuelan Ministry of Communications published a press release saying that the new system will be a sign of independence, which will break the communication blockade imposed on the island by the United States.
However, Cuban officials have already pointed out the difficulty to widely spread the Internet in Cuba due to financial and technological problems and stressed that the cable will primarily serve to support national sovereignty and security.
Opinion of a Cuban Blogger
The most popular blogger in Cuba, Yoani Sanchez, believes that the fibres of the cable already have their name, owner, and ideology. She says that rather than linking the Cubans with the world, the cable will serve the government to exercise even more control over the population.
Yoani thinks it would be immoral if the communist regime maintained the current prices for internet access in hotels and resorts, which are prohibitive for most of the Cubans.
She explains that in a country where misuse of resources is both an everyday practice and a strategy of survival, the time of the Internet connection will be put up for auction.
There will be an increase in pirate connections and the black market with films and documentaries will benefit from the extra megabytes that will run through the island. In workplaces with access to the Internet, employees will register for green card lotteries, in foreign labour offices or love chats.
“They cannot prevent us from using the cable for purposes very different from those intended by the government, which has bought it because it believes that it can securely tie the island with a single piece of cord made of optical fibre”, concludes the blogger.