Kremlin was behind mass cyber assault, says Georgian critic


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Kremlin was behind mass cyber assault, says Georgian critic
• Attack that hit Facebook and Twitter 'aimed at blog'
• Russian conduct in South Ossetia condemned

The Georgian blogger who fell victim to yesterday's enormous cyber assault that hit LiveJournal, Facebook and Twitter, affecting hundreds of millions of web users around the world, has blamed the Kremlin for the attack.

The blogger – a 34-year-old economics lecturer called Georgy, better known to his online readers as Cyxymu – said he believed the denial-of-service strike was an attempt to silence his criticism of Russia's conduct in the war over the disputed South Ossetia region, which began a year ago today.

"Maybe it was carried out by ordinary hackers but I'm certain the order came from the Russian government," he told the Guardian from his office in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. "An attack on such a scale that affected three worldwide services with numerous servers could only be organised by someone with huge resources."

Georgy – whose moniker is a latinised version of the Russian spelling of Sukhumi, the capital of Georgia's other breakaway republic, Abkhazia – has repeatedly condemned Moscow's polices in the Caucasus. Last year he was the victim of a similar attack that crashed LiveJournal for a day.

But he was "amazed" when he realised the latest strike on his blog, Sukhumi, War and Pain, had apparently triggered a global online meltdown. "I didn't expect that it would be an attack on me, I'm not such a famous blogger," he said.

"It started when hundreds of thousands of spam emails supposedly from me were sent all over the world suggesting for people to visit one of my blogs. So thousands of people visited it causing it to freeze, and they [LiveJournal] had to block it again. Then the same thing happened with Facebook and Twitter."

Georgy said his blog aimed to unite ethnic Georgians who lived in Sukhumi but were forced to leave as refugees in 1993 when Abkhazia seceded from Georgia.

After years of simmering tensions, the conflict erupted last August following clashes between Georgian forces and separatist South Ossetians who want formal independence from Georgia. The clashes led Tbilisi to bombard the province and launch a ground attack which, in turn, prompted Russia to send troops into South Ossetia and to bomb both the province and some parts of Georgia.

Georgy, who declined to give his surname, said he was a Georgian born in Sukhumi who fled the city in September 1993. He is now an economics professor who taught at an institute in Tbilisi for refugees from Abkhazia.

He said: "I believe that Russia did everything in its power to provoke the war with the aim of seizing Georgian territory and thus preventing Georgia from entering Nato."

Cyxymu's original LiveJournal blog was still blocked today and he reported on a back-up blog that it too was coming under a new spam attack. "I hope it will withstand it," he wrote.

Russian government officials were unavailable for comment today. They have repeatedly denied past accusations of organising online attacks, including those on Estonian and Georgian government websites.

Anton Nosik, an internet guru and executive of the Sup company which owns LiveJournal in Russia, wrote in his blog that Kremlin-protected hackers appeared to be responsible.

"Why should the authorities torture themselves creating laws against the internet as a whole … when there is a pack of Great Power-loving goons ready to overwhelm any server at the blast of a whistle (or without it)," he wrote, adding: "All these people need from the [Russian] authorities is protection, a guarantee against punishment."

Nosik noted, however, that it was still not clear whether service interruptions had been caused by the spam attack on Cyxymu or by a direct "distributed denial of service" (DDoS) bombardment of networking sites' servers.

DDoS attacks happen when the controllers of "botnets" consisting of many thousands of virus-compromised Windows PCs decide to target a site. In the past banking, gambling and news sites – and even Google – have been the target of DDoS attacks.

Yesterday's strike is not the first apparently politically motivated cyber-attack. Hackers supporting both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have launched attacks scribbling political slogans on vulnerable websites. Indian and Pakistani hackers often engage in skirmishes, and recently, US and South Korean computers were attacked, with some pointing the finger at North Korea.

Kremlin was behind mass cyber assault, says Georgian critic | World news | The Guardian

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