Saturday, May 19, 2007

Cyber attack

This is scary stuff. It seems to me to be a proof of concept, a dry-run, if you will. There's little reason why we in the US could not be next. I would take any government and business reassurances to the contrary as sanguine nonsense.

Cyber Assaults on Estonia Typify a New Battle Tactic

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, May 19, 2007; A01

TALLINN, Estonia, May 18 -- This small Baltic country, one of the most wired societies in Europe, has been subject in recent weeks to massive and coordinated cyber attacks on Web sites of the government, banks, telecommunications companies, Internet service providers and news organizations, according to Estonian and foreign officials here.

Computer security specialists here call it an unprecedented assault on the public and private electronic infrastructure of a state. They say it is originating in Russia, which is angry over Estonia's recent relocation of a Soviet war memorial. Russian officials deny any government involvement.

The NATO alliance and the European Union have rushed information technology specialists to Estonia to observe and assist during the attacks, which have disrupted government e-mail and led financial institutions to shut down online banking.

As societies become increasingly dependent on computer networks that cross national borders, security experts worry that in wartime, enemies will attempt to cripple those networks with electronic attacks. The Department of Homeland Security has warned that U.S. networks should be secured against al-Qaeda hackers. Estonia's experience provides a rare chance to observe how such assaults proceed.

"These attacks were massive, well targeted and well organized," Jaak Aaviksoo, Estonia's minister of defense, said in an interview. They can't be viewed, he said, "as the spontaneous response of public discontent worldwide with the actions of the Estonian authorities" concerning the memorial. "Rather, we have to speak of organized attacks on basic modern infrastructures."

Foreign governments began to take notice. NATO, the United States and the E.U. sent information technology experts. "It was a concerted, well-organized attack, and that's why Estonia has taken it so seriously and so have we," said Robert Pszczel, a NATO spokesman. Estonia is a new member of NATO and the E.U.

The FBI also provided assistance, according to Estonian officials. The bureau referred a reporter's calls to the U.S. Embassy in Estonia, which said there was no one available to discuss American assistance to the Baltic State.

"The nature of the latest attacks is very different," said Linnar Viik, a government IT consultant, "and it's no longer a bunch of zombie computers, but things you can't buy from the black market," he said. "This is something that will be very deeply analyzed, because it's a new level of risk. In the 21st century, the understanding of a state is no longer only its territory and its airspace, but it's also its electronic infrastructure.

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