Besides the bloody shooting war going on between Georgia and Russia, there's another, quieter battle going on in cyberspace.
The Georgian government is accusing Russia of disabling Georgian Web sites, including the site for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Because of the disruption, the Georgian government began posting the Foreign Ministry's press dispatches on a public blog-hosting site owned by Google (georgiamfa.blogspot.com) and on the Web site of Poland’s president, Lech Kaczynski.
Separately, there were reports that Estonia, which was embroiled in an electronic battle with Russia in May of last year, was sending technical assistance to the Georgian government.
The attacks were continuing on Monday against Georgian news sites, according to Jose Nazario, a security researcher at Arbor Networks, based in Lexington, Mass.
"I’m watching attacks against apsny.ge and news.ge right now," he said. The attacks are structured as massive requests for data from Georgian computers and appear to be controlled from a server based at a telecommunications firm, he said.
This kind of attack, known as a distributed denial of service attack, is aimed at making a Web site unreachable. It was first used on a large scale in 2001 to attack Microsoft and has been refined in terms of power and sophistication since then. The attacks are usually performed by hundreds or thousands of commandeered personal computers, making a positive determination of who is behind a particular attack either difficult or impossible.
There were indications that both sides in the current conflict — or their sympathizers — were engaged in attacks aimed at blocking access to Web sites.
On Friday, the Russian-language site Lenta.ru reported that there had been distributed denial of service attacks aimed at the official Web site of the government of South Ossetia as wells as attacks against RIA Novosti, a Russian news agency.
Internet researchers at Sophos, a computer security firm headquartered in England, noted the Russian attacks and also said that the national bank of Georgia's Web site had been defaced at one point and replaced with images of 20th-century dictators as well as an image of Georgia's president, Mikheil Saakashvili.
Bill Woodcock, research director of the Packet Clearing House, a nonprofit technical organization that tracks Internet traffic, said cyberattacks are so inexpensive that they are almost a certainty in modern warfare. "It costs about 4 cents per machine," he said. "You could fund an entire cyberwarfare campaign for the cost of replacing a tank tread, so you would be foolish not to."
Georgia is dependent on both Russia and Turkey for connections to the global Internet. Georgia, with United States backing, is putting a fiber-optic network link under the Black Sea to connect its port city of Poti to the Bulgarian city of Varna. That connection is scheduled for completion in September.
Date: August 11, 2008, 9:20 pm
Author: John Markoff
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