Friday, May 18, 2007

Cyber-attacks on Estonian sites continue - II

As this blog has observed in the past, the small European state of Estonia is one of the most wired nations in the world, with almost all of its government, media, financial and municipal institutions run in large part via the Internet and Internet-related resources. This has, of course, rendered it vulnerable to attack, and the last few weeks have shown evidence of this. Now international media are beginning to pick up on this -

The IHT writes that
The Estonian defense minister, Jaak Aaviksoo, said Thursday that there was a possibility that the Russian government was involved in recent hacker attacks against Estonian Web sites.

Aaviksoo said there was not enough evidence to prove “a governmental role, but it indicates a possibility.” He said more than one million computers worldwide had been used in recent weeks to attack Estonian Web sites since the removal of a disputed Soviet statue from downtown Tallinn, the Estonian capital.

Officials said that Russian-language instructions on how to cripple Estonian Web sites were circulating on the Internet at the same time that Estonia fell victim to massive cyberattacks that some officials compared to an act of war. Earlier, the Estonian government had said that some of the attacks could be traced to computers in the Kremlin.

“If let’s say an airport or bank or state infrastructure is attacked by a missile it’s clear war, but if the same result is done by computers, then what do you call it?” said a Defense Ministry spokesman, Madis Mikko. “Is it a state of war? Those questions must be addressed.”

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, of which Estonia is a member, sent a cybercrime expert to Estonia to help fight the electronic attacks amid concern that the military alliance might also be targeted, an official from the Brussels-based organization said Thursday.
And the Telegraph reports:
Estonia urged Nato to develop a unified strategy against “cyber-terrorists” yesterday after suspected Russian hackers launched a third wave of attacks on leading government, banking and media websites this week.

The three-week cyber-offensive, which has been linked to a furious diplomatic row between Russia and Estonia, is believed to be the first time that a single state has come under concerted attack by hackers.

Some officials in Estonia, one of the most wired countries in the world, have suggested that the Russian government was behind the campaign.

The Baltic state has suffered serious electronic disruption since it decided to relocate a controversial Soviet war memorial, a move that prompted Russia to threaten sanctions.
The FT notes the wider repercussions of the attacks:
A top US official on Thursday warned that cyber-attacks against governments and institutions were likely to increase in future following a series of assaults over the past month in Estonia.

The attacks, which Estonian officials say originated in Russia, began after April 27 when Estonia removed a Soviet second world war memorial from its capital, Tallinn.

“We need to prepare ourselves because this is likely only to become more of an issue in the future,” said John Negroponte, deputy US secretary of state and until recently the US director of national intelligence. He did not comment on allegations that the attacks were linked to the Russian government.

Mr Negroponte said cyberterrorism was becoming an increasing concern “as familiarity with these technologies grows and more and more actors get involved in information technology”.
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