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Nationalistic Fervour and Online Attacks

Nationalistic fervour has long been a motivating factor for electronic attacks against companies, governments and websites in general. A significant proportion of the defaced sites listed in the Zone-h defacement archives have been defaced with a nationalistic statement or ultimatum of some sort from the attacker (even if the targeted site has no relevant link to the nationalistic claims).

Estonia's recent decision to relocate a Russian WWII war memorial from the centre of Tallinn to a war cemetery sparked outrage from Estonians and ethnic Russians in Estonia, and complaint from Russians in Russia. Mixed in with the street protests and political posturing were increasing numbers of attacks against Estonian government websites, as well as other significant Estonian company sites.

Claims have been made that the attacks have originated from Russia and are being state-sponsored. Getting NATO involved with the online feud is a major escalation that is likely to have longer term political effects, irrespective of any actual or perceived official Russian involvement.

While the scale of the attacks does suggest some form of official support, it could just as easily be a handful of very patriotic botnet controllers, who have turned their sights on Estonian sites. As with Air Power, their online attack effects are impermanent - which means that once the attacks are over, the sites will return to normal operation with no long-lasting effect.

Although the Cold War is over, this and other recent events is certainly making the political atmosphere chilly between Russia and former satellite states, between Russia and the EU, between Russia and NATO, and between Russia and the major Western powers.

This is not the first time that accusations of state-sponsored online attacks have been made. Various global Intelligence organisations have associated the 'Titan Rain' sequence of events with Chinese state-sponsored attacks, and other smaller claims have been made that countries such as North Korea maintain official state-sponsored hacking groups.

Any event of international tension between two nations can lead to these sort of results (such as was seen when the US EP-3 collided with the Chinese J-8 off Hainan Island).

18 May 2007

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