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Risk

1/24/2008
11:36 AM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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CyberWar! Not So Much

It's looking more like the distributed denial-of-service attacks that crippled the Web site of the Estonian Reform Party last spring were not the result of grim-faced Russian warriors vigorously clicking their mice. No.

It's looking more like the distributed denial-of-service attacks that crippled the Web site of the Estonian Reform Party last spring were not the result of grim-faced Russian warriors vigorously clicking their mice. No.According to news reports today, Estonia convicted a student for organizing the attack. He was fined the equivalent of about $1,600 U.S. dollars. Turns out this was a case of hacktivism, where the 20-year old Dmitri Galushevich, who admitted guilt, was apparently protesting the removal of a Soviet war memorial from the center of the capital to a military cemetery. To some, this statue was a testament to the Russian soldiers who fought Germany in WWII (a real war, not a denial-of-service attack or a Web site defacement); to others, it was a reminder of an unwanted occupation.

Galushevich was the first prosecuted for the denial-of-service attacks, and others are suspected to still remain at-large in Russia. My bet: more students, no soldiers.

These attacks on the Baltic nation of Estonia were significant. And Estonia's Internet and infrastructure is somewhat unique. Most of the IT and communication infrastructure in Estonia was built after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union. And much of this infrastructure is heavily dependent on the Internet -- much more so than that of most other nations. In addition, because it's a small, concentrated nation, the Internet access to the entire country can easily be choked. And when the Web went down, the flow of consumer staples -- food -- was hampered.

Nonetheless, it wasn't a war, but a protest. And I'll wager that when we do see the world's first "cyberwar," we will witness a nation's communications blacked out through the destruction of satellites or the tactical crippling of telecommunication lines. We'll see attempts at freezing financial networks, and probably a swipe at the power grid. This will all happen very quickly before real troops advance (not botnets), and real bombs are dropped (not the logic kind).

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