Cyber War 2.0 -- Russia v. Georgia



The second real cyber was has broken out. On August 8th, Russian troops crossed into South Ossetia vowing to defend what they called "Russian compatriots". As this was taking place, a multi-faceted cyber attack began against the Georgian infrastructure and key government web sites. The attack modalities included: Defacing of Web Sites (Hacktivism), Web-based Psychological Operations (Psyc-Ops), a fierce propaganda campaign (PC) and of course a Distributed Denial of Service Attacks (DDoS).

Shortly after noon east coast time in the United States, CNN's Wolf Blitzer attempted to interview Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili by phone on his live news program. The first attempt was unsuccessful and the second attempt took place about ten minutes later was able to successfully connect to President Saakashvili. President Saakashvili immediately apologized for the missed connection earlier blaming the problem on a "cyber attack" against the Georgian VoIP phone system. Another causality of the cyber attack was the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) website. At one point in time the MFA's web site had an image of Adolf Hitler beside the image of President Saakashvili.

At one point(used in the sentence above), multiple government websites were down or inaccessible for hours. This led them to make perhaps the most strategic move to date in cyber warfare. This impressive move came when the Georgian Government decided to relocate President Mikhail Saakashvili's web site to a web site hosting service in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States. The strategic thinking surrounding this move was twofold. First, the Russian cyber attackers would surely think twice about attacking a web site hosted on servers located in the United States. Secondly, if the Russian cyber attackers were to go after the President's web site hosted on U.S. soil, that action might bring the United States into the conflict.

I was told by a Georgian insider that "We were not prepared for the use of computer weapons against our communications infrastructure." Other sources in the Estonian military also told me that they had offered their assistance to the Georgian Government early on in the cyber attack. She said that they (Estonia) had gained valuable knowledge from the forensic analysis of the cyber artifacts left behind after they were attacked in April/May of 2007.

I used SBIA and TIE techniques to analyze the cyber attack against Georgia. Based on all open source intelligence, the cyber attack on Georgia analysis resulted in the following information [on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being high].

Scale of the attack = 3.3 Complexity of the attack = 3.1 Impact of the attack = 3.5

No longer can we ignore cyber weapons. This is the second minor cyber war that has broken out in the last two years. "Security experts and military leaders have been warning of the potential use of cyber weapons against government and civilian targets both as a stand-alone threat and coordinated military tactical modality," said Brian from Spy-Ops. Cyber attacks and warfare have entered into the arsenal of modern warfare. Where and when the next attack will be launched is anyone's question. The only thing for sure is there will be more.

-- Kevin Coleman

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