By Jeremy Kirk
IDG news service
17 May 2007
A spate of denial of service attacks in Estonia has revealed the extent
to which corporate networks are vulnerable to such onslaughts. Although
the attacks in Estonia appear to be subsiding, the government there has
called for greater response mechanisms to cyber attacks within the
The attacks, which started around 27 April, have crippled websites for
Estonia's prime minister, banks, and less-trafficked sites run by small
schools, said Hillar Aarelaid, chief security officer for Estonia's
Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). But most of the affected
websites have been able to restore service.
"Yes, it's serious problem, but we are up and running," Aarelaid said.
Aarelaid said analysts have found postings on websites indicating
Russian hackers may be involved in the attacks. However, analysis of the
malicious traffic shows that computers from the US, Canada, Brazil,
Vietnam and others have been used in the attacks, he said. NATO experts
are helping Estonia investigate the attacks, Aarelaid said.
Press reports also speculated that tension between the two countries may
have resulted in a coordinated campaign by Russia against Estonia. Last
month, Estonia irked Russia by moving a Soviet-era World War II memorial
of a bronze soldier, sparking protests. Aarelaid dismissed the theory,
saying Estonians were also divided on the issue.
A DOS attack involves commanding other computers to bombard a website
with requests for data, causing the site to stop working. Hackers use
botnets - or groups of computers they've infected with malicious
software - to launch an attack.
It's difficult to trace who controls botnets, as the networks involve
compromised computers located around the world.
"If you have an unknown number of attackers with different skills and
capabilities, it's quite painful," Aarelaid said.
In Brussels on Monday, Estonia's defence minister, Jaak Aaviksoo, called
for the development of a stronger capability to respond to cyber attacks
within the European Union.
"Extensive cyber attacks against Estonia show clearly that this matter
should be seriously dealt with and relevant information exchange with
one another," Aaviksoo said.
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