For last two weeks, Western media including many respectfull newspapers was spreading hysteria about "Russian hackers" who attacked Georgian sites during the fight on the border between Georgia and South Ossetia. No, our Webplanet magazine is not going to tell you "Russia is always right". We just say this story is a perfect situation to tell the difference beetween professional journalism and propaganda dummies. It is true that IT topics are hard for a common journalist. Yet the job of journalist is not about being a passive carier for the media viruses. So next time you want to recall "that story about Kremlin cyber-attacks", please take into account these facts:
(1) The first DDoS-attacks on Georgian sites on 8th of August started more than 12 hours after the Russian military operation started. The botnets used for attacks previously had targeted porn and gambling sites. It's casting doubt on Georgia's claims it was orchestrated as part of Moscow's military offensive. This is recognized even by western press ("Analysis: Russia-Georgia cyberwar doubted" by UPI).
(2) On 8th of August, some Russian and Ossetian sites were DDoS-attacked as well. The biggest Russian news agency RIA Novosti (rian.ru) was down for two days, the problem started with their Georgian project newsgeorgia.ru. Ossetian news sites osinform.ru, cominf.org, tskhinval.ru went down, too. Most western news ignored this fact, or dropped just a couple words about it (Jose Nazario, security researcher for Arbor Networks, told CNET News that "he's seeing evidence that Georgia is apparently fighting back, attacking at least one Moscow-based newspaper site").
(3) The words "fighting back" are wrong - the attacks on both Russian and Georgian sites started the same time and stopped the same time. By the 12th of August (when the most papers cried about it) all the attacked sites mentioned were up and running OK, both Georgian and Russian ones. But all these sites had different hostings, different security. This fact leads us to the conclusion that both waves of DDoS-attacks were orchestrated by the same "third party" as a provocation to make media buzz and create more tensions between Russian and Georgian folks. Later our sources among security experts proved this guess: most of the attacks on Russian and Georgian sites on 8-12 August were started from Ukraine which is now used by many badboys as an "Internet off-shore" for malware.
(4) Neither Russian nor Georgian military get its own serious "cyber-troops" nowadays. But this kind of special units for cyber war are well developed in the USA. Before this conflict, the Georgian army was trained by US military experts in Iraq.
The Wired magazine published a good story about it ("Did the U.S. Prep Georgia for War with Russia?"). And its readers recalled the scenario (or should we say "a training guide"?) for this case - Tom Clancy's "Ghost Recon" videogame. The game is about a squad of U.S. Special Forces, with special missions in foreign countries. The game starts in Georgia:
"During the first few missions of the game, the Ghosts battle South Ossetian rebels... The Ghosts fight in the forests, on farms, and in villages while assisting their NATO allies in fighting the enemy".
Now, the game gets real. Could the US Ghosts bring the same "help" to the cyberworld by assisting NATO-bended ukrainian hackers? Ask Tom Clancy if you don't see the whole picture by yourself.Read more in Russian