By Nikolaus von Twickel
The Moscow Times
01 February 2010
Novaya Gazeta's web site was paralyzed by a hacker attack for a sixth
day Sunday in what editors called the strongest assault ever to hit the
opposition newspaper's online edition.
The denial of service attack started Tuesday morning and peaked Thursday
when the site recorded 1.5 million visits per second, said Sergei
Asriyants, the newspaper's web editor.
"We had hacker attacks before but never as strong as this," he told The
The attack was weaker Friday but still too strong for the newspaper's
server, he said.
Novaya Gazeta's stories continue to appear online on the paper's live
journal site at Novayagazeta.livejournal.com.
Asriyants could not say where the attack had originated or who was
behind it but acknowledged that it was well organized.
"The only thing I can say is that this is not the job of amateurs," he
The Russian Internet was awash with speculation over the weekend of what
had triggered the attack and who was to blame. One widely circulating
theory was that it was motivated by a commentary by Yulia Latynina
published in Monday's Novaya Gazeta. Latynina is also a Moscow Times
In the articled titled "Bee Cluster or Anti-Baker," Latynina argues that
Russia is so corrupt that even Adam Smith's invisible hand does not work
as a regulating force.
Latynina said by telephone Friday that she had no evidence that her
article was to blame. But, she said, a hacker attack over her article
would confirm the article's premise that corruption is uncontrollable.
"Maybe someone is just spending his royalties now," she said in regard
to the hacker attack.
But Novaya Gazeta spokeswoman Nadezhda Prusenkova dismissed the
possibility of a connection to Latynina's article, noting that it had
been online a whole day and spread widely on the Internet before the
"Maybe someone just wants to punish us for our overall work," she said.
Novaya Gazeta asked law enforcement authorities to open a criminal
"The complaint went to the Interior Ministry, the prosecutor general and
the Federal Security Service," Prusenkova said, adding that no answer
could be expected from the agencies before Monday.
Phone calls to the Interior Ministry's press service went unanswered
Friday, but the ministry said Thursday that it would investigate the
attack once it received a complaint.
Prusenkova said she hoped that the problem would be solved by Monday.
Novaya Gazeta is frequently critical of the government, and four of its
reporters have been killed since 2000, including Anna Politkovskaya.
The newspaper is co-owned by businessman Alexander Lebedev and former
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Lebedev did not return a request for
Hackers have troubled national media organizations in the past.
In late November, a mystery virus destroyed the web site of Moskovsky
Komsomolets. Editors of the popular national tabloid determined that
hackers were behind the attack, which deleted parts of the paper's
The government has been accused of orchestrating denial of service
Internet attacks, including assaults on Georgian sites during the 2008
war in South Ossetia and on Estonian government sites in 2007. The
Russian government has denied wrongdoing.
Russia has produced an active generation of computer engineers in recent
years, and the country's hackers have achieved worldwide notoriety.
Antivirus software firm Kaspersky Lab said last week that while most
cybercrimes originated in China last year, Russians deserve the "gold
medal" for Internet fraud.
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