Russian gov't not behind Estonia DDOS attacks

Analysis throws doubt on whether a single agency alone was involved

From alleged poisonings to organized crime, Russia has been getting a lot of bad press lately. But this time the country -- or at least, the government -- may be in the clear.

The string of crippling DDOS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks against Estonia didn't appear to be a coordinated attack by one entity within Russia, wrote Jose Nazario, senior security engineer with Arbor Networks, in a commentary.

Estonia, a former satellite of the Soviet Union with a population of 1.3 million, came under intense electronic attacks around April 27, jamming up commercial and government Web sites. The attacks came as Estonia moved a World War II memorial of a statue of a Soviet soldier, igniting fierce protests.

Although Russia was quickly accused, Russian government officials denied involvement. Difficulties in tracing the source of the DDOS attacks left more suspicions than facts.

But further analysis throws doubt on whether a single agency alone was involved, given that the attacks came from computers around the world, Nazario wrote.

While it is possible to spoof the origin of a DDOS attack, "none of the sources we have analyzed from around the world show a clear line from Moscow to Tallin," Estonia's capital, Nazario wrote.

While the Russian government may have not been the single source, there is evidence that a number of Russian-speaking computer gurus may have joined in.

Several Russian-language Web forums have information and scripts that would allow others to rig their computers to join in a DDOS attack, which involves sending massive streams of data to a Web site, causing it to crash. The scripts would cause a computer to send data to a Web site.

"We see signs of Russian nationalism at work here, but no Russian government connection," Nazario wrote.

This week has been fairly quiet, said Hillar Aarelaid, chief security officer for Estonia's Computer Emergency Response Team.

"We have seen some attacks, but they are quite easy to handle," Aarelaid said, adding the DDOS attacks remain under investigation.


Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.