Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Bear in the Machine

The New York Times recently reported that Estonian policy makers are accusing Russian nationalists of sabotaging their electronic infrastructure. "Digital Fears Emerge After Data Siege in Estonia" describes a new form of state vs. state conflict and the potential for cyberwar between nations. The official site of the Reform Party -- with its huge daffodil image and text-oriented navigation -- has been a favorite target of hackers who appear to be affiliated with a Russian language minority in the country, but government sites that provide information about basic services have also been subject to attacks. Using a giant network of bots the infiltrators released bursts of data that overwhelmed the firewalled systems. Ironically the impetus for the conflict was apparently the removal of a much more reified form of political rhetoric, a Soviet-era memorial to the soldiers of World War II, the Bronze Soldier. (Thanks to Carla Copenhaven for suggesting this story.)

Update: Wired has published analysis that indicates that this was in all likelihood a hoax.

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