Attacks continue on Russian and Georgian Web sites, but who’s to blame?

August 14, 2008

Armed conflict between Russia and Georgia has been paralleled by what many in the media have classed a "cyberwar," where Georgian Web sites have been crippled by DDoS attacks and defacements.

As Georgian government sites were rendered inaccessible this week, Poland, Estonia, and the United States hosted mirrors to provide supplementary outlets for information. Polish president Lech Kaczynski’s official site says, "Along with military aggression, the Russian Federation is blocking Georgian Internet portals."

Though the attacks were traced to servers in both Russia and Turkey, the Russian government has denied involvement in the action, citing several of its own Web services that have also succumbed to DDoS attacks.

The denial of service attacks against Georgia bear a remarkable similarity to those that took place against Estonia in 2007. These attacks, due to their scope, were also suspected to have been orchestrated by the Russian government, but no evidence could be provided to substantiate any accusations.

In July, 300 Lithuanian sites were compromised and defaced by pro-Russian hackers in response to the Lithuanian ban on Soviet symbols, such as the hammer and sickle of the old Communist Party. This act was preceded by appeals on Russian forums, according to The Baltic Course, that called for hackers to unite against Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as well as Ukraine.

"All the hackers of the country have decided to unite, to counter the impudent actions of Western superpowers. We are fed up with NATO’s encroachment on our motherland, we have had enough of Ukrainian politicians who have forgotten their nation and only think about their own interests. And we are fed up with Estonian government institutions that blatantly re-write history and support fascism," the message stated.

Those attacks, according to Lithuanian security researchers, came from compromised French and Swedish hosts.
The Estonian cyberattacks in 2007 and the current ones against Georgia are now regarded as the two of the biggest organized service attacks in history. Unfortunately, no firm evidence has been presented that implicates any single organization in either action.