Cyberwar is breaking out of sci-fi genre

Cyberwar is breaking out of sci-fi genre
Cyberwar is breaking out of sci-fi genre 

By Pavla Kozkov

Not so long ago Estonia made the headlines as the first country to hold 
its national elections via Internet. Now the country has taken center 
stage due to a different but much less pleasant first, and one which 
could hit closer to Czech homes than Czechs would like.

Estonia is one of the most advanced countries in its use of Internet and 
e-government in Europe. An attack on its virtual world hit society where 
it counts the most. Estonia, which became independent of the former 
Soviet Union in 1991, pulled down a bronze statue of a Red Army soldier 
in the center of the capital city of Tallin at the end of April. The 
move provoked strong words from Russia and the largest riots among the 
Russian minority in Estonia since the collapse of the Soviet bloc. 
During the protests some 1,300 people were arrested, 100 injured and one 
person killed.

The political row escalated in May when Estonia endured a two-week 
cyberwar that disabled Web sites of government, political parties, 
newspapers, banks and companies. The damage caused by the shutdowns 
hasnt been calculated yet. These attacks are the first known incidence 
of an assault on such a wide scale and caused alarm across the countries 
of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which is examining the 
offensive and its implications. NATO even sent some of its top 
cyber-terrorism experts to the Estonian capital to investigate and 
strengthen the countrys electronic defenses.

While no one is pointing fingers openly at Russia, all heads are turned 
in that direction. So far there has been no proof of Russias official 
involvement. The hackers have been disrupting Estonian Web sites using 
distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS), which swamp Web sites with 
tens of thousands of visits. The huge number of visits exceeds the 
capacity of the server and disables the sites.

Estonian authorities claimed that one of the addresses sending the DDoS 
belonged to an official who works with Russian President Vladimir Putin, 
but the Russian government denied any involvement. According to online 
publication Boing Boing, a Russian youth group called Nashi, which has 
strong ties to Putin, claimed responsibility for the attacks. Whether it 
is the Russian state or some patriotic group that orchestrated this 
cyberwar isnt as important as that it alerted attention to possibilities 
and ramifications of Web aggression.

The Czech angle

The second largest city in the Czech Republic, Brno, South Moravia, is 
considering removing a memorial above the tomb of Red Army soldiers in 
Brnos district Kralovo Pole. The Russian general consulate in Brno 
already stated it would consider the removal of the memorial as a breach 
of interstate treaty and as a hostile step.

The debate was started by Brno Deputy Mayor Ren Pelan who, in the 
district newsletter, called the structure a monster. The monument is 
shaped like a stone pyramid with a Cyrillic inscription saying that 326 
Red Army soldiers, who died during Brnos liberation in 1945, are buried 
there. At the base of the monument is a flowerbed thats supposed to 
symbolize a grave.

Pelan wants the space cultivated and proposed removing the memorial and 
replacing it with an irregular piece of rock. The new stone monument 
would bear the inscription to the memory of all victims of World War II, 
he suggested. It would make no specific reference to the Red Army.

The Russian consulate said that victory in World War II was attained at 
the cost of huge Russian sacrifices, and thats why the attempts in a 
number of countries to rewrite the history of the war and to distort the 
importance of the victory are absolutely unacceptable. The consulate, 
however, said that it believes that the Czech Republic is not trying to 
rewrite the history, according to the Czech News Agency (CTK).

Estonias lesson

The events in Estoniataken seriously, not only by the country directly 
affected, but also by NATO officialsgives Czechs and other nations a 
flavor of what might happen if they anger another state. The memorial is 
scheduled for repair this year and apart from cleaning up the obelisk, 
it will get back the Russian symbols of a hammer and sickle, according 
to an agreement between the Ministry of Defense and Brnos City Hall. The 
symbols of the communist Soviet Union were originally part of the 
memorial and will most likely return, despite the protests from leaders 
in the Kralovo Pole district. This should serve to make the Russians 

But there is another issue that for the past couple of months irks the 
Russians to such degree that they stated they would be willing to point 
their missiles at the Czech Republic: the U.S. radar base. The first 
round of the Czech-U.S. talks on the possible hosting of the U.S. radar 
base in the Czech Republic were completed in May. The talks are expected 
to last another several months but Russia is coming up with strongly 
worded comments on the issue almost daily. While so far the threats 
circle around the use of the conventional, old-fashioned missiles, the 
Estonian experience shows a way that countries can express 
dissatisfaction and cause damage without reverting to brute force.

What would be the effects of such a shutdown in the Czech Republic? Even 
though the country isnt very advanced in e-government services yet, a 
cyber attack on the government Web sites would still result in 
significant inconvenience for officials and citizens. The attack could 
shut down portals for Web applications such as public transport 
schedules, for example. Shutdowns could also affect advertising income 
for portals.

The effects of such a shutdown would be equally lethal for a company 
that generates its sales revenues from business deals closed solely on 
the Internet, such as Internet shops. The Czech largest online retailer 
in terms of revenue Internet Mall posted its sales exceeding Kc 1.37 
billion ( 48.5 million) in 2006 and one day out of operation might cost 
the company almost Kc 3.8 million in lost revenues. The amount, 
naturally, would be lower for slow seasons such as summer and higher for 
high seasons such as December holidays but it gives us an idea what the 
cost of even a limited cyber attack could be.

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