Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Estonia-Russia Cyberwar...

The New York Times ran an article this morning on the cyberwar between Estonia and Russia that has been going on for the past month. The New York Times assesses its significance as being "the first war in cyberspace", yet the real story is why it took the newspaper over a month to report on the story while blogger journalists have been writing on it since its inception.

The focusing event for this cyberwar was the Estonian authorities removing a statue of a World War II-era Soviet soldier, which prompted ethnic Russians - and allegedly the Russian government itself - of attacking Estonian cybertargets including nearly "shutting down the country’s digital infrastructure, clogging the Web sites of the president, the prime minister, Parliament and other government agencies, staggering Estonia’s biggest bank and overwhelming the sites of several daily newspapers".

The Russians did all of this, not by "hacking" into Estonian computer systems the way the mainstream public uses the term, but by distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks. Basically, software bots turn computers around the world into "zombies" that send and request so much data from Estonian servers that they become overloaded and shut down from not being able to handle all of the traffic.

It is presumed that such DDOS attacks have been previously used in the Israeli-Palestinian and Serbian-Croatian conflicts, and the New York Times makes the frightening revelation that China, Russia, the U.S., and numerous other nations already have an "offensive information-warfare programs".

But the real story here is why it took over a month for this story of cyberwar to be reported in the mainstream media. The New York Times has taken quite a beating the past few years, and I really don't want to jump on that bandwagon, however the fact remains that blogger journalists have been reporting and commenting on the Estonia-Russia cyberwar since late April, and it is now almost June. Perhaps we can toss that up to the traditional press doing a poor job, or to the New Media carrying the torch of news reporting to better effect. But, regardless, after following this story for several weeks already, does anyone else find today's Times article somewhat ridiculous?


At 5:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an Anglophone of Estonian descent I take the opposite view. Estonia made it to the top of the front page Tuesday and nobody had to die. The article was also written with more detail than your average plane crash being described in the general press.
Multiple sources of info using industry jargon and a couple of precedents were identified. Sounds almost like investigative reporting. Bush scheduling his June visit may have triggered the significant editorial response.

At 9:36 AM, Blogger Robert J. Domanski said...

Rollleft, I agree with you that the article was well-written and appears well-researched as well. However, my point was that it took far too long for the NY Times to report on this story, leaving one to wonder if they would have bothered at all if not for the blogosphere keeping the story alive for several weeks.

I appreciate the different perspective though :-)


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