Risk
8/17/2009
02:10 PM
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Cyber Attack Against Georgia Blurred Civilian And Military

Last year's cyber assault against Georgia represents a template for civilian involvement in military action.

The cyber attacks against Georgia last year marked the first known time that computer networks were assaulted by civilians in conjunction with physical attacks conducted by a national military force.

A report on the events of August 2008 by the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, a non-profit research institute, suggests that future conflicts may follow a similar course, raising difficult questions about who represents the enemy in cyberspace and what countermeasures might be appropriate against civilian combatants.

An overview of the report states that the cyber attacks against targets in Georgia were carried out by civilians with little or no involvement of the Russian military. But the organizers of the cyber attacks had advance notice of the Russian plans and were told when military operations had commenced so they could coordinate digital bombardment with physical bombardment.

"Many of the cyber attacks were so close in time to the corresponding military operations that there had to be close cooperation between people in the Russian military and the civilian cyber attackers," the report overview states. "When the cyber attacks began, they did not involve any reconnaissance or mapping state, but jumped directly to the sort of packets that were best suited to jamming the Web sites under attack. This indicates that the necessary reconnaissance and the writing of the attack scripts had to have been done in advance."

John Bumgarner, research director for security technology at the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, who helped prepare the report, said that government policies to deal with this blurring of lines between military and civilian aggression has yet to be formulated.

The matter is complicated by the fact that civilians may not necessarily be participating in such events willingly, if their computers are compromised and are part of a botnet.

"Where are the battle lines in cyberspace?" asks Bumgarner. "And who is the enemy?"

Those questions may take a decade or longer to answer, said Bumgarner. It's a very complex set of issues, he said, and will only become more so as the slow spread of broadband Internet connectivity brings more people with divergent views together online.

Bumgarner expects the attacks on Georgia to become a template for upcoming acts of aggression. "It will be a trend that will be in future conflicts," he said. "Civilians can become willing participants in fairly major cyber events and they can be anywhere in the world."

And many appear ready to do so. Earlier this month, in conjunction with the first anniversary of the conflict between Georgia and Russia, a pro-Georgia blogger was targeted on Blogger, Facebook, LiveJournal, and Twitter with a denial of service attack.

The answer, Bumgarner says, isn't turning the Internet into the equivalent of a police state. Rather, it's more openness and information sharing so the impact of cyber conflicts can be mitigated.

Ultimately, he says, the Internet may need an international organization, like the U.N. Security Council, to handle acts of cyber aggression.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on smartphone security. Download the report here (registration required).

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Flash Poll
Current Issue
Cartoon
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-1544
Published: 2014-07-23
Use-after-free vulnerability in the CERT_DestroyCertificate function in libnss3.so in Mozilla Network Security Services (NSS) 3.x, as used in Firefox before 31.0, Firefox ESR 24.x before 24.7, and Thunderbird before 24.7, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via vectors that trigger cer...

CVE-2014-1547
Published: 2014-07-23
Multiple unspecified vulnerabilities in the browser engine in Mozilla Firefox before 31.0, Firefox ESR 24.x before 24.7, and Thunderbird before 24.7 allow remote attackers to cause a denial of service (memory corruption and application crash) or possibly execute arbitrary code via unknown vectors.

CVE-2014-1548
Published: 2014-07-23
Multiple unspecified vulnerabilities in the browser engine in Mozilla Firefox before 31.0 and Thunderbird before 31.0 allow remote attackers to cause a denial of service (memory corruption and application crash) or possibly execute arbitrary code via unknown vectors.

CVE-2014-1549
Published: 2014-07-23
The mozilla::dom::AudioBufferSourceNodeEngine::CopyFromInputBuffer function in Mozilla Firefox before 31.0 and Thunderbird before 31.0 does not properly allocate Web Audio buffer memory, which allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (buffer overflow and applica...

CVE-2014-1550
Published: 2014-07-23
Use-after-free vulnerability in the MediaInputPort class in Mozilla Firefox before 31.0 and Thunderbird before 31.0 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (heap memory corruption) by leveraging incorrect Web Audio control-message ordering.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Where do information security startups come from? More important, how can I tell a good one from a flash in the pan? Learn how to separate ITSec wheat from chaff in this episode.