Cyberwars: the Dry Run

The cyber attack is one of the tools Russia pulled from the "Making War" goody bag.  A plethora of attacks are available:  cyber espionage, web vandalism, DoSS attacks (Distributed Denial-of-Service Attacks), attacking critical infrastructure, propaganda and so on.  But a weapon of any kind can't be utilized effectively without serious practice and preparation.  Georgia is on the receiving end of that experience, and Russia has a great deal of that practical experience, especially against other former-Soviet republics.  Cyberwars are a sign of the times and more than likely, Estonia was a dry run. 

In April of 2007 an altercation regarding the removal of a Soviet war monument, an ethic clash ensued between the Estonians who considered the monument "a painful reminder of hardships under Soviet rule," while Estonia's Russian-speakers saw "the monument as a tribute to Red Army soldiers who died fighting the Nazis."  Also, the exhumation of 14 Soviet soldiers and interment in a military complicated the situation.

Of course, the social conflict didn't stay an internal Estonian affair.  The Russia government "reacted bitterly" calling "for sanctions against Estonia," and then defined Baltic government in other terms: 

"The Estonian government has spat on values," Russian news agencies quoted Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as saying. "I cannot understand it when people try to lay blame for historical events on somebody, or try to compare communism with Nazism."

In Estonia, leaders slammed the rioters, with President Toomas Hendrik Ilves calling them "criminals."

The electronic barrage was launched the following month:

The Kremlin's assault on Estonia is intensifying on four levels of varying sophistication. These include: cyber attacks from within Russia's Presidential Administration against the Estonian presidency's and government's electronic communications; political demands, backed by economic sanctions threats, to change the Estonian government....

The Kremlin's attacks against Estonia bear a striking resemblance to what is happening to Georgia, especially Russia's desire "to change the Estonian government."

In July 2008, Russian cyber attacks were launched against

Hundreds of Lithuanian government and corporate Web sites were hacked and plastered with Soviet-era symbols and other digital graffiti this week in what appears to be a coordinated cyber attack launched by Russian hacker groups.

A New York Times story reports that Lithuanian officials did not directly accuse Russian hackers of initiating the attacks, but said they had come from foreign computers. However, iDefense, a security intelligence firm, based in Reston, Va., attributed the attacks to nationalistic Russian hacker groups protesting a new Lithuanian law banning the display of Soviet emblems, including honors won during World War II.

According to Lithuanian media reports, the attacks shut down the Web sites of the national ethics body, the securities and exchange commission, the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party, among others. iDefense said hacker groups used Internet forums and blasted spam e-mails to spotlight a manifesto called "Hackers United Against External Threats to Russia," which called for an expansion of the targets to include Ukraine, the rest of the Baltic states, and "flagrant" Western nations for supporting the expansion of NATO.
Former Soviet republics wishing to rid themselves of memories of the Soviet era or remain free from heavy-handed Russian influence face a continue assault beginning with the Russian-Estonia Cyberwar.  But with Georgia, Russia seems to have concluded that Cyber Warfare is just not enough.