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Estonia accuses Russia of 'cyberattack'

NATO is investigating siege on Estonian government, media, and banking websites, but Russia denies involvement.

By / May 17, 2007

Estonia accused Russia of launching a barrage of "cyberattacks" that are shutting down Estonian government, newspaper, and banking websites.

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The Guardian reports that the attacks began in late April, coinciding with Estonia's decision to move a Soviet World War II memorial, the Bronze Soldier, from a central location in Tallinn, the Baltic nation's capital. Though Estonians saw the memorial as a reminder of Soviet oppression, Russia viewed the decision to move it as an affront, prompting riots by ethnic Russians in Tallinn and condemnations and sanctions from Moscow. The cyberattacks have continued since then.

The crisis unleashed a wave of so-called DDoS, or Distributed Denial of Service, attacks, where websites are suddenly swamped by tens of thousands of visits, jamming and disabling them by overcrowding the bandwidths for the servers running the sites. The attacks have been pouring in from all over the world, but Estonian officials and computer security experts say that, particularly in the early phase, some attackers were identified by their internet addresses - many of which were Russian, and some of which were from Russian state institutions. ...
The attacks have come in three waves: from April 27, when the Bronze Soldier riots erupted, peaking around May 3; then on May 8 and 9 - a couple of the most celebrated dates in the Russian calendar, when the country marks Victory Day over Nazi Germany, and when President Vladimir Putin delivered another hostile speech attacking Estonia and indirectly likening the Bush administration to the Hitler regime; and again this week.

The Guardian notes that Estonia is a pioneer of "e-government" and one of the most wired countries in Europe, making it that much more vulnerable to cyberattacks. In order to stop the attacks, Estonia has shut down foreign access to the sites under siege.

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet accused the Kremlin of direct involvement in the cyberattacks, saying they were an attempt to paralyze Estonian businesses and government offices, writes The Times of London.

"When there are attacks coming from official IP addresses of Russian authorities and they are attacking not only our websites but our mobile phone network and our rescue service network, then it is already very dangerous," Mr Paet said.
"It can cost lives. I hope they will stop it but the attacks are continuing. They are sending huge levels of stuff through the networks so that our different servers will crash.
"The largest part of these attacks are coming from Russia and from official servers of the authorities of Russia."