[AfrICANN-discuss] War on the Web

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Wed Jan 2 16:08:42 SAST 2008

War on the Web

Canada needs to protect itself from cyber attacks, CSIS says

Stewart Bell,  National Post  Published: Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Dimitar Dilkoff, AFP, Getty Images

The bronze statue in Estonia's Tallinn Military Cemetery depicts a
Soviet Red Army soldier with a war-weary face and a helmet in his

It is a memorial to those who fought in the Second World War, but this
year it became a symbol of how international conflicts are fought in
the Information Age.

In April, Estonia removed the two-metre monument from its original
perch at Liberators' Square in central Tallinn and placed it in the
more inconspicuous cemetery, sparking Russian outrage.

The Russian government denounced the apparent slight and nationalist
demonstrators gathered outside the Estonian embassy in Moscow but then
something else happened: Estonian Internet sites started crashing.

The Web sites of the Estonian Prime Minister, Parliament, Foreign
Ministry, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Economic
Affairs and Communications all went down.

Estonian officials traced the source of the problems and discovered
that their Web sites were being attacked -- by computers located
inside the Russian government. It was cyber war.

And according to a newly declassified report by Canadian intelligence
analysts, Ottawa had better be prepared for it.

Whether it is Peru and Chile feuding over a fishing zone, or Japan and
China in a squabble over a Second World War shrine, when countries
quarrel, they strike each other's computer networks.

"Any potential political or diplomatic dispute can now be expected to
include a significant online component," the Canadian Security
Intelligence Service report said.

Written two months after the diplomatic spat between Estonia and
Russia, the CSIS Intelligence Brief is marked "Secret," but a
declassified version was obtained by the National Post under the
Access to Information Act.

It said the lesson of the fight over the war monument is that Canada
needs to be ready to defend itself against the cyber attacks that will
come as inevitably as the next diplomatic dispute.

"This is just going to be part of the future of international
politics, and so we have to adjust to that," said James Lewis, a
senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in
Washington, D.C.

He said attacks like the one that took Estonia's Web sites offline are
costly and disruptive but not that damaging-- yet.

"The problem, though, is it wouldn't be that much more of an effort to
move to that more damaging attack," said Mr. Lewis, director of the
think-tank's Technology and Public Policy Program.

"Suppose they scramble all the databases? Suppose they scramble all
the tax records? Suppose they scramble everyone's SIN numbers? Suppose
they change your medical prescription? There's a lot of things you
could do to damage information that would be messy."

Russia's online assault on Estonia is part of an emerging field called
Information Operations. Many countries now have both a doctrine and
capability to fight in cyberspace, which some argue has become a
fourth theatre of war after land, sea and air.

"Hacker" attacks are just one form of Information Operations. They can
take many forms. Viruses, Trojans and worms can be used to disable
computers. Internet sites can be defaced, or so overloaded with access
requests or incoming e-mails that they go down--a "denial of service"

The attacks usually last two to four weeks, CSIS said. They are often
the cyber equivalent of a slap in the face, or muscle flexing. In
other words, they have not caused the targeted countries to collapse.

Martin Libicki, a senior analyst at Rand Corp. who specializes in
information technology and security, said while countries can make
their networks less vulnerable to attacks, others may look at the
Estonia example and wonder why they should bother.

"Russia gained nothing from the attack 
 except to deepen its
reputation as a bully," he said. "And Estonia did not bend to Russia
but clung even more tightly to NATO."

But the CSIS report warned that attacks are getting more advanced.

"The recent history of cyber conflicts demonstrates an increased
sophistication in the nature of cyber attacks that includes 
of distributed denial of service attacks, defacements, e-mail spam and
other attack tools."

Concerns about cyber attacks stem from a simple dilemma: As nations
have become more dependent on computers, they have also become more

"This goes on all the time and it's a hell of a lot worse than anybody
knows," said Winn Schwartau, the author of Information Warfare: Chaos
on the Electronic Superhighway, who divides his time between the
United States and British Columbia.

Mr. Schwartau said although the Russian-Estonian cyber war received a
lot of press, the problem is not new. But he said countries are
nonetheless unprepared. "It's a joke," he said. "It's so bad, so
ridiculously bad."

Canada's vulnerability to cyber attacks was highlighted in 1999 by the
Special Senate Committee on Security and Intelligence, which urged the
government to "give immediate and careful attention" to the issue.

Later that year, the Chinese government orchestrated a cyber attack on
a Hamilton-based Internet provider that was hosting the Web site of
the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is outlawed by Beijing.

In 2005, Ottawa set up the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre,
which co-ordinates the government response to attacks. It can convene
what is called the cyber-triage unit, which includes the RCMP, CSIS
and Communications Security Establishment. The centre also works with
international partners.

"They share information about threats and vulnerabilities and they
co-ordinate activities to defend against cyber attacks," said Jean
Tessier, a spokesman for Public Safety Canada.

High-profile government targets such as the head of state,
legislature, foreign ministry and major finance and business Web sites
"face the greatest risk since they are the public face of an
organization or government," the CSIS report said.

Is Canada prepared? The title of the CSIS intelligence report is
Online Component of Country-to-Country Conflicts: Are We Ready?

The answer to that question was not disclosed in the report.




1999 NATOWeb sites are attacked from within Serbia after alliance
warplanes begin bombing Yugoslavia in an effort to stop then-president
Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic cleansing campaign in Kosovo.

1999 China attacks a Canadian Internet service provider that had been
hosting a Web site of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is
outlawed by Beijing. The attacks temporarily shut down the site.

2000 The Internet sites of the Palestinian Authority, Hezbollah and
Hamas are attacked after three Israeli soldiers are abducted. In an
apparent act of retaliation, the Israeli Knesset, ForeignMinistry,
Bank of Israel and Tel Aviv Stock ExchangeWeb sites are taken down.

2005 Peru and Chile engage in hacker attacks against each other during
a dispute over a fishing zone between the two countries. Targets
include the Web sites of the Peruvian judiciary and Chilean National
Emergency Office.

2005 Cyber attacks increase between Japan and China after a
controversial visit by Japanese lawmakers to a SecondWorld War shrine.

2007 The Russian government mounts a cyber war against Estonia in
apparent retaliation for Estonia's decision to relocate a SecondWorld
War memorial honouring the Soviet Red Army.


CSIS on Information Operations

http://www. csis-scrs.gc.ca/en/newsroom/ backgrounders/ backgrounder11.asp

Canadian Cyber incidents Response Centre


Communications Security Establishment


Winn Schwartau


Estonian government


Vladimir Putin's Web site


sbell at nationalpost.com

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