NATO is being called on, by one of
its members, to declare Cyber War on Russia. Russia is accused of causing great
financial harm to Estonia via Cyber War attacks, and Estonia wants this sort of
thing declared terrorism, and dealt with. NATO has agreed to discuss the issue
and make a decision. That's big progress in this area.
Cyber Wars have been going on for over a decade
now, and they are getting worse. It started in the 1990s, as individuals
attacked the web sites in other nations because of diplomatic disputes. This
was usually stirred up by some international incident. India and Pakistan went
at it several times, and Arabs and Israelis have been trashing each others web
sites for years. The Arabs have backed off somewhat, mainly because the Israeli
hackers are much more effective. Chinese and Taiwanese hackers go at each other
periodically, and in 2001, Chinese and American hackers clashed because of a
collision off the Chinese coast between an American reconnaissance aircraft and
a Chinese fighter.
In the last two years, these Cyber Wars have
escalated from web site defacing and shutting down sites with massive amounts
of junk traffic (DDOS attacks), to elaborate espionage efforts against American
military networks. The attackers are believed to be Chinese, and some American
military commanders are calling for a more active defense (namely, a
counterattack) to deal with the matter.
The Russian attacks against Estonia are the result
of Estonia moving a statue, honoring
Russian World War II soldiers,
from the center of the capital, to a military cemetery. The Estonians always
saw the statue as a reminder of half a century of Russian occupation and
oppression. Russia saw the statue move as an insult to the efforts of Russian
soldiers to liberate Estonia, and enable the Russians to occupy the place for
half a century. The basic problem here is that most Russians don't see their
Soviet era ancestors as evil people, despite the millions of Russians and
non-Russians killed by the Soviet secret police. The Russians are very proud of
their defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, ignoring the fact that the Soviet
government was just biding its time before it launched its own invasion of
Germany and Europe in general.
While many Russians would have backed a military
attack on Estonia, to retaliate for the insult by an ungrateful neighbor, this
approach was seen as imprudent. Estonia is now part of NATO, and an attack on
one NATO member is considered an attack on all. It's because of this Russian
threat that Estonia was so eager to get into NATO. The Russians, however,
believe that massive Cyber War attacks will not trigger a NATO response. They
were so sure of this, that some of the early DDOS attacks were easily traced
back to computers owned by the Russian government. When that got out, the
attacks stopped for a few days, and then resumed from what appear to be illegal
botnets. Maybe some legal botnets as well. Russian language message boards were
full of useful information on how to join the holy war against evil Estonia.
There's no indication that anyone is afraid of a visit from the Russian
cyber-police for any damage they might do to Estonia. And the damage has been
significant, amounting to millions of dollars so far. While no one has been
injured, Estonia is insisting that this attack, by Russia, should trigger the
mutual defense provisions of the NATO treaty. Maybe it will, maybe it won't.
Either way, the results will be interesting.