You keep forgetting to include that the Georgians attacked the Russians first.Weeks before Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers began pouring into Georgia, the assault on the small Caucasian country had already begun; in cyberspace.
As early as mid-July, initial attacks on Georgian websites were detected which escalated into a massive coordinated denial of service attack last Thursday; a day before Russian forces roared into the separatist region of South Ossetia. While cyber experts and defense analysts view this as the first overt use of cyberwarfare conducted in tandem with a real world military offensive, some believe that an infamous Russian cybercrimes syndicate - the Russian Business Network – may be serving as a proxy for the Russian government.
Still others point to the timing of Thursday’s attacks as a sign of Russian government complicity in the cyber-assault.
Although the networks used in the cyber-offensive were set up well beforehand, the most serious attacks began just as Russian tanks and troops jumped off from their intial staging points. Furthermore, the choice of targets is especially telling. Official sites in Gori, along with local news sites, were shut down by denial-of-service attacks before Russian planes reached the strategic eastern Georgian city.
"How did they know that they were going to drop bombs on Gori and not the capital?" cyber expert Don Jackson of SecureWorks asked. "I would say that from what I've seen firsthand, there was at some level actual coordination and/or direction [by the Russian government], especially in regard to the timing and the targets of some of the attacks."
Regardless of the source of the attacks, the end result has been the seizure of control of many Georgian governmental websites as well as the defacement and blocking of other non-governmental Georgian sites. In response to the attacks, many Georgian sites have moved to hosts in the United States; including the official website of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.
In what appears to be a cyber-counterstrike, Russian media accused Georgia of targeting the state-sponsored news organization RIA Novosti and other popular websites with denial of service attacks that left them down for hours.
In the days following Russia’s multipronged assault on its neighbor, Internet political forums have been abuzz with debate over who initiated or provoked the crisis. Over the past 48 to 72 hours, there have been the appearance of an increasing number of posters attacking the Georgians for provoking the crisis that appear to be :
A) Patriotic Russian nationals mounting a grassroots defense of the Rodina
B) Russian state actors incorporating disinformation and propaganda into their tactical arsenal and promoting their message in the blogosphere/forumworld under the cover of (A)
C) Russian state proxies such as the Russian Business Network acting on behalf of Moscow in order to provide it with plausible deniability
While some of these possibilities may sound like the plot of a Tom Clancy thriller, there is the growing realization among defense experts and theorists that cyberspace is now an environment that must be included in strategic defensive and security planning. Adding a new dimension to the battlefield, cyberspace provides access to the heart of an adversary’s vital communications networks, governmental agencies and critical infrastructure; such as electrical grids and water systems.
Additionally, the growing dependence of defense and intelligence agencies on computer networks and satellite communications that are tied to the Internet demand a comprehensive cyberdefense strategy. Recognizing this need, the Pentagon has designated the 8th Air Force at Barksdale, Louisiana as the Air Force Cyber Command
With Russian attacks on Estonia in the spring of 2007; Chinese probes of American defense networks and attacks on Indian and Japanese sites as well as the ongoing cybercombat between Russia and Georgia, it is clear the traditional battlefield has been radically expanded and redefined.
Si vis pacem para bellum, faithful readers. If you want peace, prepare for war. Your weapon and weakness lies before you. Stay tuned for further updates as events warrant and the circuits sizzle with the latest assault.
Why would the Georgian President start a conflict he was sure to lose in about 5 minutes knowing that many of his own people would be killed in a useless fight?