Real people are dying at Russian hands in Georgia, but the reports of a cyber-war are not as clear.
There's no doubt that Georgia
is being militarily attacked by Russia
is dropping actual bombs deep inside the country, and it's not clear, at the
moment, how far the attack will go.
There are also reports that cyber-warfare attacks are under way, and here
the picture is less clear. Jart
Armin's RBN Blog
, which follows the infamous Russian Business Network, has
been reporting that "RBN (Russian Business Network) now nationalized,
invades Georgia Cyber Space."
Armin has been directly relaying reports
from the Georgian government in that entry and others.
These reports show government sites and critical infrastructure blocked by
DDOS attacks. RBN
Blog calls it "a full cyber siege of Georgia's cyber space"
an effective one: On Aug. 9, Armin wrote: "At this time all Georgia
government web sites are unobtainable from US, UK,
FR, and DE cyber space, as examples."
But there are other reports challenging some of these claims, and they have
some merit. The first issue I'll point out has to do with the Georgian Ministry
of Foreign Affairs, which has opened up a
blog on Google's Blogger
after stating, through the RBN
Blog, that their
official site had been taken down
. Yet on Aug. 11, I got to the
official Ministry of Foreign
Affairs of Georgia Web site
with no problem. The RBN
Blog specifically warns that some sites claiming to be an official Georgian
source may be fraudulent, but the mfa.gov.ge site certainly seems to be holding
the same positions as those coming through the RBN
Much of the analysis of the cyber aspects of the war focus on network maps
and how Georgian Internet access connects to the rest of the world. The
RBN Blog has some analysis of this
, but its map is a bowl of spaghetti and
impossible to follow. Much better is the
analysis on the renesys blog
, which also touches on the issue of oil
pipelines, surprisingly relevant to the cyber-warfare issues.
The renesys analysis shows that there are certainly significant outages:
"... up to 35% of the prefixes disappeared from the Internet, sometimes
for long periods of time, and up to 60% of them were unstable." Yet they
also say that none of these outages seemed to be permanent, surprisingly so for
a war zone.
Gadi Evron, who
was deeply involved in the resolution of the Russian cyber-war against Estonia
also argues that current
events in Georgia don't seem to rise to the level of cyber-warfare
"While Georgia is obviously under a DDoS attack and it is political in
nature, it doesn't so far seem different than any other online after-math by
fans. Political tensions are always followed by online attacks by sympathizers."
What persuades Evron, and persuades me, is the knowledge that if Russia
really wanted to take down Georgia's
electronic infrastructure, and really had command of the RBN
to do it, they could do it much more convincingly than what seems to be case right
now. Things would be firmly shut down. What we have now appears to be the
efforts of relative amateurs.
I hope nobody mistakes my sympathies in this case. Even if Russia
were conducting full-scale cyber-warfare against Georgia,
it would be small potatoes compared with the crimes it is committing with
conventional war, in which we have been treated to pictures of bombed apartment
buildings and dead civilians on the side of the road. Even if, as the
Washington Post reported Aug. 11, Russian
President Dmitri Medvedev is saying that military operations in Georgia are
the infamy of their actions will last.
But if Russia
could have launched a cyber-war and didn't, why didn't it? That's the
Editor Larry Seltzer
has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983.
For insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEK.com
Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer's blog Cheap Hack