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Transmission

Behind The Estonia Cyberattacks

Sergei MarkovSergei Markov
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Sergei Markov
Sergei Markov
In the spring of 2007, a cyberattack on Estonia blocked websites and paralyzed the country's entire Internet infrastructure. At the peak of the crisis, bank cards and mobile-phone networks were temporarily frozen, setting off alarm bells in the tech-dependent country -- and in NATO as well.

The cyberattacks came at a time when Estonia was embroiled in a dispute with Russia over the removal of a Soviet-era war memorial from the center of  Tallinn. Moscow denied any involvement in the attacks, but Estonian officials were convinced of Russia's involvement in the plot.

A new blog post for Ekho Moskvy makes a startling revelation about the 2007 attacks. The post, by journalist Nargiz Asadova -- a columnist for RIA Novosti based in Washington, and an Ekho Moskvy host -- describes a March 3 panel discussion between Russian and American experts on information warfare in the 21st century.

Asadova, who was moderating the discussion, asked why Russia is routinely blamed for the cyberattacks in Estonia and Georgia, where government sites were seriously disrupted during the August war.

She might not have been expecting the answer she got from Sergei Markov, a State Duma Deputy from the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party: "About the cyberattack on Estonia... don't worry, that attack was carried out by my assistant. I won't tell you his name, because then he might not be able to get visas."

Markov, a political analyst who has long been one of Vladimir Putin's glibbest defenders, went on to explain that this assistant happened to be in "one of the unrecognized republics" during the dispute with Estonia and had decided on his own that "something bad had to be done to these fascists." So he went ahead and launched a cyberwar.

"Turns out it was purely a reaction from civil society," Markov reportedly said, adding ominously, "and, incidentally, such things will happen more and more."

In Russia, Markov's confession is all over the blogosphere, but has yet to be picked up by the Russian media.

Estonian Defense Ministry officials, meanwhile, have reiterated their certainty that Russia was behind the cyberattack, but played down Markov's claims, saying the 2007 incident was a highly coordinated campaign that could not be the work of a single mischievous hacker.

Still, Asadova notes that Markov -- as a member of the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe -- should know that his assistant could face a lot more trouble than just problems getting a visa to vacation in Cannes. Turns out that taking down government sites in Estonia is a crime.

-- Robert Coalson

Tags: cyberattacks,estonia,markov,Russia

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by: Waffa from: Estonia
March 08, 2009 06:42
Well, what a "startling revelation" :)

by: Domingo Barón from: Wellington, NZ
March 08, 2009 21:26
What has been particularly irritating in Western Europe, in particular, is the dismissive attitude with which those attacks were treated. There are still too many naive commentators who persist in a blinkered &quot;Russia will always be Russia&quot; <br />approach which then leads them lay the blame on the nation that &quot;escaped&quot; from the Soviet cage, be it Estonia, or Georgia, or any other post-Soviet state.<br />It is this failure to take seriously the un-reformed and un-destalinized political class that rules Russia that is one of the West's shortcomings.<br />

by: VytautasBa from: Vilnius
March 09, 2009 06:39
Should we count this in the list of news items before or after the &quot;reset&quot; in russian relations?

by: Abigail Voit from: Estonia
March 09, 2009 08:59
United Russia's sister party in Estonia is Edgar Savisaar's pro-Russian &quot;Center&quot; Party. Would behoove Edgar to admonish his partners in Russia?

by: Zeleny from: Canada
March 09, 2009 14:01
Yeah, now we're supposed to believe that a random guy from &quot;unrecognized&quot; (read &quot;poorly connected&quot;) region in x-USSR single-handedly brought down Estonian cyberspace (and don't Estonians love to boast one of most &quot;wired&quot; societies in the world?) Yeah, right. But, as soon as this boast helps to throw an extra fistful of fecal mass at Russia, we have to believe it, right? Thinking otherwose would be a thoughtcrime.<br /><br />To Abigail Voit from: Estonia:<br />Would you be so kind to find more appropriate venue for your anti-Savisaar crusade? Anyone modestly interested in Estonian internal politics is aware that IRL is spitting mad at Savisaar for bringing mere suggestion that Russian speakers should be granted voice in Estonian politics.

by: Shimael
March 09, 2009 18:04
Zeleny, you do not understand the subtext of that announcement. Learn to read between the lines.<br /><br />He is worried that &quot;the crowds might slip out of control&quot;. And what &quot;worried&quot; means for russians in that context, well, I suggest You find out for Yourself.

by: paul from: cyberlandia
March 09, 2009 20:50
http://www.mail-archive.com/funsec@linuxbox.org/msg09686.html<br /><br />Take a look at this thread. Gadi Evron, who was one of the first on the cyberwarfare bus in ths case, is apparently dismissing the 'assistant' remark as a joke. I am not 100% on what Gadi's take on the whole situation is now, but the consensus in the security community is that there was no need for the Russian gov't to have a hand in this; there are tons of people in the world who can launch the kind of stupid-simple attacks that made the Estonian websites go offline for a bit.

by: red.herring from: Riga, Latvia
March 10, 2009 08:20
-&gt; Zeleny <br /><br />People say, that it was not a &quot;random guy&quot;, who did this, but the regional coordinator of pro-Kremling &quot;Hitler Jugend&quot; type extremist organization &quot;NASHI&quot;. It, of course, was not done by a single person, but by an organized group receiving massive support from Russian government.<br /><br />Read here:<br />&quot;The unnamed assistant is likely to be Konstantin Goloskokov, commissar of the &quot;Nashi&quot; Youth Democratic Anti-Fascist Movement in Moldova and Transnistria, who already admitted to orchestrating the attack and was subsequently banned in 27 countries. In this case, the &quot;unrecognized republic&quot; that Markov spoke of would be Transnistria, a self-governing, separatist region in the Republic of Moldova.&quot;<br />http://news.softpedia.com/news/Two-Years-Old-Cyber-attack-on-Estonia-Again-in-the-Spotlight-106353.shtml

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