Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

Study of Russia-Georgia Cyber Conflict Brings Warnings To U.S. Businesses, Citizens

Companies, end users could easily be swept up in politically-motivated attacks, researchers say

A year-long study of the cyberwar between Russia and Georgia is being published this week, along with some dire warnings to U.S. businesses and individuals.

The detailed study, which was prepared by the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit (US-CCU), was distributed as a classified document to government and military organizations earlier this month. However, a nine-page summary of its high-level conclusions was made available to the press over the weekend.

The summary outlines the details of the cyber conflict between Russia and Georgia, and offers some conclusions about future cyber warfare. But John Bumgarner, CTO of the US-CCU and one of the authors of the report, says there is an even more important subtext to the findings.

"Any corporation -- any citizen -- can become a pawn in a global cyberwar," Bumgarner says. "This is not a problem that's limited only to governments or the military."

The Russia-Georgia conflict ripped away the traditional lines between military forces, government agencies, and private citizens, the report states. Most of the attacks on Georgia's Websites and computer systems were launched by private citizens -- and even Russian organized crime -- who were recruited over social networks. The attackers may have had the support of the Russian government, getting tips as to the timing of military operations, but no specific orders were issued publicly.

"This changes the way battle lines are drawn," Bumgarner says. "How do you deal with private citizens who become cyber warriors? There are no treaties or international laws that address this."

And while the Russian attacks on Georgia -- as well as those on Estonia a year earlier -- focuse primarily on government sites and systems, it's important to remember that systems in the private sector could quickly become targets as well, the report says. In Georgia, for example, two banks and several newspapers were attacked during the cyber conflict.

"In any military operation, one of the first targets is communications," Bumgarner observes. "In a cyber attack, you can expect the media to be a first target, any vehicle that might be used to tell people what's going on."

Government systems make up only a small fraction of the critical systems that serve any country, and are only a small number of the systems on the Internet, Bumgarner notes. "It's likely that in any cyber conflict, private sector computers will fall victim to attack," he says.

Businesses should take care to implement security tools and processes not only to protect themselves from direct attack, but to prevent their systems from becoming unwitting bots or zombies in large-scale DDoS attacks, Bumgarner says.

"You could become a participant in a cyber attack without even knowing it," Bumgarner says. "It's a chess game, and anyone could be made into a pawn."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
When It Comes To Security Tools, More Isn't More
Lamont Orange, Chief Information Security Officer at Netskope,  1/11/2021
US Capitol Attack a Wake-up Call for the Integration of Physical & IT Security
Seth Rosenblatt, Contributing Writer,  1/11/2021
IoT Vendor Ubiquiti Suffers Data Breach
Dark Reading Staff 1/11/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
2020: The Year in Security
Download this Tech Digest for a look at the biggest security stories that - so far - have shaped a very strange and stressful year.
Flash Poll
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
COVID-19 has created a new IT paradigm in the enterprise -- and a new level of cybersecurity risk. This report offers a look at how enterprises are assessing and managing cyber-risk under the new normal.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-3113
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-17
Netsia SEBA+ through 0.16.1 build 70-e669dcd7 allows remote attackers to discover session cookies via a direct /session/list/allActiveSession request. For example, the attacker can discover the admin's cookie if the admin account happens to be logged in when the allActiveSession request occurs, and ...
CVE-2020-25533
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-15
An issue was discovered in Malwarebytes before 4.0 on macOS. A malicious application was able to perform a privileged action within the Malwarebytes launch daemon. The privileged service improperly validated XPC connections by relying on the PID instead of the audit token. An attacker can construct ...
CVE-2021-3162
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-15
Docker Desktop Community before 2.5.0.0 on macOS mishandles certificate checking, leading to local privilege escalation.
CVE-2021-21242
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-15
OneDev is an all-in-one devops platform. In OneDev before version 4.0.3, there is a critical vulnerability which can lead to pre-auth remote code execution. AttachmentUploadServlet deserializes untrusted data from the `Attachment-Support` header. This Servlet does not enforce any authentication or a...
CVE-2021-21245
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-15
OneDev is an all-in-one devops platform. In OneDev before version 4.0.3, AttachmentUploadServlet also saves user controlled data (`request.getInputStream()`) to a user specified location (`request.getHeader("File-Name")`). This issue may lead to arbitrary file upload which can be used to u...