Georgia Conflict Spills Into Cyberspace

Dennis Faas's picture

Security researchers have revealed that the current military hostilities between Russia and Georgia may have actually begun online a couple of weeks ago.

There's no official word as to who was behind cyber attacks which brought down Georgian government websites, including that of the country's president Mikheil Saakashvili. The Russian government has denied any involvement in the attacks, which were routed through servers based in the US.

Whoever was responsible used denial of service (DOS) attacks, a brutally simple technique which involves sending repeated requests to a website's server. It's pretty much the equivalent of repeatedly and continuously telephoning a company until its switchboard seizes up. Curiously the requests sent to Georgia servers included the phrase "win+love+in+Rusia."

The damage to Georgia's government websites has left political leaders much less able to communicate with supporters and the outside world during the subsequent fighting with Russian troops. One security researcher, Bill Woodcock of Packet Clearing House, says it's likely such attacks -- which cost a matter of cents to pull off -- will become a regular precursor to military action:

"You could fund an entire cyberwarfare campaign for the cost of replacing a tank tread, so you would be foolish not to." (Source: There's also growing evidence linking more recent cyber attacks with a criminal gang known as the Russian Business Network. However, it's not clear whether this could be down to individuals aping the gang's techniques -- and indeed, whether the Russian government is ultimately calling the shots.

Some analysts believe that these attacks are more intense, but much more short-lived, than a previous campaign against Estonian sites which was blamed on the Russian government. That could mean the attacks on Georgia are down to private individuals, possible even teenagers, who lack the computing power for a prolonged campaign. (Source:

And there's even some suggestion Georgian technicians are fighting back, with the site of a Moscow-based newspaper coming under attack.

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