Behind the Estonia Cyber Attacks

Published: 2009-03-08
Last Updated: 2009-03-09 07:47:44 UTC
by Marcus Sachs (Version: 1)
2 comment(s)

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty ran a story on Friday that we just discovered.  According to the article, a Russian official has admitted that Russia was responsible for the cyber attacks on Estonia in April/May 2007.  We don't have any other data to correlate this with, so we ask our readers if you know of any other independent reporting of this please let us know via our contact form.

If this story is true, it adds yet another twist to the "truth" of what happened in Estonia in 2007 and perhaps also with respect to the alleged Russian cyber attacks against Georgia last year.  There is no internationally accepted formal definition of "cyber warfare" even though many in the media like to use that term freely when describing denial of service attacks, website defacements, or other activities that otherwise would be labeled as criminal behavior.  I don't personally believe that any hostile activity we have seen so far in cyberspace can be labeled "warfare" but rather is either criminal or espionage related.  What do you think?  Cyberwar or criminal?  Let us know via the comment feature below or via our contact form.

Marcus H. Sachs
Director, SANS Internet Storm Center

2 comment(s)


I would expand your labels of hostile activity to be criminal:For Profit, criminal:Activism, and espionage.

There is a difference there between the two types of criminal activity. One is very much intended to be detected while the other is typically done as discretely as possible.

I do think it is important to understand that it doesn't take a country as powerful as Russia to attack a county's Internet systems.

Just as terrorists changed warfare from being a battle between two nations to being a battle between a country and a small group, online warfare will be even more disproportionate.
I tend to think "criminal activity" applies more to stuff perpetrated by individuals, whereas "cyber warfare" would apply more to activity supported by a government.

I suppose, though, just like one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter, who is a "cyber warrior" would depend a lot on who you asked.

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