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Russia Accused of Cyber-War Against Estonia 373

earthlingpink writes about the ongoing DDoSing of Estonia. The Guardian is reporting that Russia stands accused of engaging in a three-week-long series of cyber-attacks. Government, banking, and media websites have been targeted. It is unclear whether the attacks are sanctioned or initiated by the Russian Government, but Estonian authorities believe that to be the case. NATO has sent security experts to Tallinn to help beef up defenses. The Estonian defense minister said, "At present, NATO does not define cyber-attacks as a clear military action. This means that the provisions of... collective self-defense, will not automatically be extended to the attacked country... this matter needs to be resolved in the near future."
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Russia Accused of Cyber-War Against Estonia

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 17, 2007 @09:24AM (#19160265)

    As an American-Estonian (1/3 Estonian on my Mother's side), I can confirm that Russia has been attacking my programming project, making it impossible to debug. And THAT boss is why the project isn't done yet! What can I do when all of Russia is against me?

    Where did I hear about this attack? Uh.. slashd... an on-line news source specializing in technical news of course!

  • by grev ( 974855 ) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @09:32AM (#19160421)
    Are they accusing the Russian government of perpetrating this attack, or are they stating that this attack is coming from Russian soil?
    • by bockelboy ( 824282 ) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @10:12AM (#19161183)
      According to rumor, Russia has been up to a lot of subterfuge in Estonia lately.

      It didn't make US news, of course, but Estonia just had some of the first riots in their capital, Talin. Lately, the Estonian government has been removing Soviet war memorials because, well, they partly respresented the Soviets ruling their country. Just like the Russians have been doing in Moscow, they remove them all and have a single statue garden (they are historical, after all).

      However, when they removed one statue of a Soviet soldier in a cemetary, thousands of Russians living in Estonia started protesting. Now, maybe the Russian population just liked that particular statue, but there were rumors that Russian agents were stirring up trouble just to stir up trouble.

      Russia's been flexing its muscles across Eastern Europe again. They've been punishing "bad" countries which disobey them. First the riots (which were suspected to be caused by Moscow), now cyber attacks. Neither are outright military moves, but they sure as hell get the message across.

      Combined with the recent crackdown on free media and opposition in Russia, it sounds like life might get interesting in 5 years. It seems that, with America's short attention span focused on Iraq, Russia has been putting the pieces in place to recapture former glory.

      Do you think that after 50 years that Boris the Soviet simply retired to the countryside? Or has he just been waiting patient for the right opportunity?

      Maybe I just haven't had enough coffee this morning to make the conspiracy theories go away.
      • by niiler ( 716140 ) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @10:34AM (#19161585) Journal
        As an Estonian-American, I can confirm that we Estonians are a might bit riled up about the Russians. On June 13-14, 1941 huge numbers of Estonians were forcibly deported to Siberia. Another deportation occurred in 1949. Then Russians were imported to re-occupy many of the vacant households. Estonians view this as a sort of ethnic cleansing. Estonians were forced to speak Russian in the school system and all traces of their former nationalism were banned. To put it bluntly, many Estonians viewed the occupations under Stalin (and later) as being the worst thing to ever happen to the country (including the Nazi occupation). Putting up Russian war monuments on Estonian soil was insulting to boot. Now the Russians are riled that the Estonians want to move such monuments from their places of prominence (not destroy, mind you, but move). Considering what Estonians have suffered at the hands of Russians, we tend to think that the Russians have no ground to lodge any kind of complaint.
      • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @11:00AM (#19162087) Journal
        I think the general consensus among those who watch the geopolitical scene is that Russia is attempting to rebuild its empire. It views the Baltic states pretty much as China views Tibet, but because of their NATO membership, Russia can't just march the troops in, so it's using agent provocateurs from among the ethnic Russian minority in the country as well as defacto economic sanctions and cyber attacks to push its weight around. If you think what Russia is doing in Estonia is bad, look at the kind of games they're playing in the Ukraine, which is furiously trying to Westernize and shed its Russian colonial past. Christ, they poisoned Viktor Yushchenko to prevent him from gaining power. The KGB is still very much alive and well. Russia may have had a brief flirtation with friendly relations with the West, but they day is done, and now it wants its empire back.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tomatensaft ( 661701 )
        You got it all wrong! :) But well, since nobody here apparently reads neither Estonian [postimees.ee], nor Russian [delfi.ee]-language sources, you can bullshit them as much as you like... :) The Soviet soldier, standing on Tõnismäe, was indeed a symbol of Soviet regime for some, but has been left untouched until now because it was a World War II memorial and also a place of a mass grave. Because of its nature (it's depicting a Soviet soldier after all), it became a place of political demonstrations by two extremist oppo
        • Sorry for mistakes in the summary of the statue business - it wasn't the point of my comment. Thanks for the correction, I claim no special knowledge of Estonia other than what I remembered from BBC articles a month or two ago.

          The point still is that there are rumors that the Russian government is stirring up trouble in Estonia and other Baltic states. There's no hard proof, but this and the statue incident make things look awful suspicious. Is it past the conspiracy theory-type stuff yet? Maybe not.

      • I see when the CIA pays street thugs to protest against a legitimate election and get it overturned its called an Orange revolution. Maybe Orange is for the color of the Euro notes handed out by CIA operatives to fund it. But when people protest the removal of war memorials commemorating millions of soldiers who died fighting the Nazis and protecting Estonia its Russian agents? How would you react if somehow a Latino president comes to power and orders the demolition of the Alamo as it represents Yankee col
        • by niiler ( 716140 ) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:33PM (#19166305) Journal
          While it was no walk in the park, so long as you were neither Jewish nor Romani, life was quite a lot better under German occupation than under Russian occupation. (Jews and Romani had it as bad in Estonia under the Nazis as anywhere in occupied Europe.) Here in the West, we view Hitler as the arch villain. In Estonia, it is Stalin who is viewed as such. Therefore when you make a statement alluding to how "millions of soldiers died fighting the Nazis and protecting Estonia" you display an ignorance of history. It is like saying that the wolf is protecting the rabbit when it drives off the hawk. Truly the Estonians wanted neither the Russians NOR the Germans as overlords.
  • by Mario21 ( 310404 ) <[ee.liam] [ta] [12oiram]> on Thursday May 17, 2007 @09:35AM (#19160491)
    By now, most of the sites under attack have been blocked to the outside traffic. That by itself means the attacks have been successful, information from Estonian government stays in the country.

    How would you you fight a DDoS attack and make sure all non-bot users have access?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anon99 ( 1103597 )
      Actually the Estonian response has been textbook example on how to fight DOS. Almost all pages that have been attacked have been in Estonian, and have been such that only someone living in country might have use for. So they have excluded outside traffic in favour of serving those who actually have use for the pages. Exactly the same I would do if I would be responsible of pages that have 99% of user base in same country. Sucks for those Estonians living outside of Estonia, but needs of many outweigh ne
  • reminds of (Score:5, Insightful)

    the Hainan Island incident [wikipedia.org]

    before 9/11 in early 2001, a chinese jet fighter bumped a us spy plane it was trying to harass away. the chinese fighter crashed and the pilot was never found, and the spy plane was forced to make an emergency landing on hainan island, where the chinese stripped the plane of equipment and then returned the crew to the usa

    what happened for a few tense weeks was a lot of nationalistic chest thumping by chinese and american hackers: chinese hackers defacing poorly patched american servers, everything from small businesses to government systems, and american hackers defacing chinese servers: schools and government (i remember this well as i had a box that was hacked: my home page was replaced with a chinese flag and a "fuck usa", heh)

    the point is, it's probably not official, it's probably by an independent group of weakly organized russian hackers upset due to nationalistic pride

    the trigger for them is that statue that estonia got rid of in tallinn, which russians probably view as thousands of dead soldiers in the defense of estonia from the nazis, and estonia being ungrateful, and estonians viewing as an example of soviet domination, and a symbol of the past cold war era, and russians trying to retain their dominance

    regardless, i expect some pissed off estonian hackers soon to plaster "in soviet russia, estonia hackers hack you!" all over pravda.ru, or something
    • Maybe (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Infonaut ( 96956 )

      the point is, it's probably not official, it's probably by an independent group of weakly organized russian hackers upset due to nationalistic pride

      Given that it is now Putin's Russia, I'm not so sure. I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were some winking and nodding coming from the Russian security apparatus.

  • "Russian."

    (pointedly) "Estonian."

    (smirk) "Russian."

    (glare) "_We_ don't think so."
  • Economix (Score:2, Interesting)

    by packetmon ( 977047 )
    This reminds me of 2001 Chinese hackers said Tuesday they have begun to hit American computer networks with denial-of-service attacks, and also claim to have placed mass-attack tools into four large American computer networks. A new alert from the FBI-led National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) confirms that hackers have been particularly active over the past two days. The distributed-denial-of-service attacks on the Department of the Interior's National Business Center, the U.S. Geological Survey'
  • General "Buck" Turgidson: Mr. President, we must not allow a Cyber-War gap!

    Seriously though, the US should have allowed the commie bastards join NATO when they wanted, instead of creating the ideal conditions for starting WW3.
  • This means that the provisions of... collective self-defense, will not automatically be extended to the attacked country... this matter needs to be resolved in the near future.
    Does this mean that get a ping wrong and it's not simply packets that might be coming back the other way?

    • Re:Oh yeah? (Score:5, Funny)

      by discord5 ( 798235 ) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @10:13AM (#19161199)

      Does this mean that get a ping wrong and it's not simply packets that might be coming back the other way?

      That's why in Hunt for Red October, Sean Connery says "ping -c 1 sub.navy.mil" (or simply "One ping only")

      That joke worked so well in my head :-(

      • If it helps, I thought it worked pretty well on this end, too.

        I don't think, though, that it could have been pulled off verbally.
  • by mungurk ( 982766 ) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @10:00AM (#19160921)
    The Guardian article is not correct, in stating "the first known incidence of such an assault on a state". James Adams published an article entitled "Virtual Defense" from Foreign Affairs, May/June 2001 that details a number of cyber-attacks on a massive scale, against the United States. Specifically the Pentagon, NASA, as well as private universities and research laboratories, and a number of military defense contractors were targeted and the security breaches were enourmous, with highly sensitive documents vulnerable. Here is a link to the article (brief preview, then they make it available for purchase - sorry) http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20010501faessay4771/ james-adams/virtual-defense.html [foreignaffairs.org] According to Foreign Affairs: The U.S. government now believes that more than 30 nations have developed aggressive computer-warfare programs. The list includes Russia and China, volatile governments such as Iran and Iraq, and U.S. allies such as Israel and France...The hackers have built "back doors" through which they can re-enter the infiltrated systems at will and steal further data; they have also left behind tools that reroute specific network traffic through Russia. [end of excerpt] The danger here is very high, especially for small businesses, who certainly do not have the technical resources of the US military (and even that was breached). Many small businesses have military contracts, etc. In short, this is a genuine act of war, and the potential for breaches of security across small businesses in the US (or really anywhere) is very high.
  • by gorbachev ( 512743 ) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @11:05AM (#19162161) Homepage
    I've said this again, but until Russia (and other Eastern bloc countries) start taking cybercrime seriously, it should just be cut off the net entirely.

    Most of the botnets in the world are controlled by Russian mafia. The rest of the world is spending an insane amount of time, money and effort defending against these attacks that orginate 90% from one part of the world. It's like criminally created welfare program, and we're all paying.
    • by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @11:52AM (#19163139) Homepage
      Problem is this could be a slippery slope.

      So if we cut their IP blocks off from the world beacuse of botnets, what other excuses could we use? Well, China supports terrorism, so lets cut them off too. And both Koreas. And the entire middle east. Etc.

      Also, the hackers would end up proxying through another set of IPs and getting to where they need to be anyway. And could write up their bots to do the same.

      That said, don't use technical solutions for social problems. The problem is the governments of the countries in question don't care. They can deny involvement but still watch their enemies writhe. It should be treated as if a stream of foreign nationals marched out of their country and into ours, guns drawn. And that their government is doing nothing to stop them.
      • Problem is this could be a slippery slope.
        So let it slide. If I don't want Russia, China, Korea, etc. to have a route to me, why should they have one? IMO, Estonian banks, businesses, etc. should simply "fork" the Internet so that only trustworthy Estonian ISPs have a route to them. Sure, it costs them something in not being able to do business internationally, but it would guarantee service for their local customers.
      • Also, the hackers would end up proxying through another set of IPs and getting to where they need to be anyway.

        Can't proxy anywhere without a route.

        Traceroute your connections for a while as you connect over the world and you'll see some reoccurring names. Those are backbone owners, and they make contracts with each other to route traffic through their nets. Say my country fails so bad at keeping me in check online that my entire country gets its routes cut off, I can't connect to the rest of the world beca

        • by Renraku ( 518261 )
          Intra-continental routing is also full of its own politics.

          Playing host to DDOS-bots is one of those 'you just sent troops to shoot up a trailer park' moments and is definately frowned upon. Its like the USPS delivering a thousand or more letters of spam to your house in one day.

          Eventually pressure on the USPS would cause them to stop accepting 1000 messages at the same time for EACH ADDRESS IN THE CITY. They should do this. Don't RBL their IPs, but if repetitive traffic like this keeps coming out, throt
    • ..(and other Eastern bloc countries) start taking cybercrime seriously, it should just be cut off the net entirely
      The former Eastern Block countries that were under Soviet occupation are now all part of the European Union and NATO. The countries you seek to "cut off" are part of your greatest ally, trade partner(s) and defense alliance!

  • "Too young to remember the war, aren't you, Case?" Armitage ran a
    large hand back through his cropped brown hair. A heavy gold bracelet
    flashed on his wrist. "Leningrad, Kiev, Siberia. We invented you in Siberia,
    "What's that supposed to mean?"
    "Screaming Fist, Case. You've heard the name."
    "Some kind of run, wasn't it? Tried to burn this Russian nexus
  • ...same as the Cold War.

    Murdering dissidents and instigating unrest in various parts of the world.

    The question is how we'll finance our side of the war this time around what with Baby Boomers getting ready to suck the federal tit dry and a feckless Congress that can't stick to a war when the going gets tough.

Money can't buy love, but it improves your bargaining position. -- Christopher Marlowe