Internet

The Undernet

On the day that Edward Snowden comes to Moscow in his role of NSA whistleblower, a reminder of the Kremlin’s Internet surveillance system. Introduced in late 2012, in its thoroughness and intrusiveness it probably outdoes most other systems of this kind in operation throughout the world today. As Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan point out in Wired magazine:

the new Roskomnadzor system introduces DPI (deep packet inspection) on a nationwide scale. Although DPI is not mentioned in the law, the Ministry of Communications — along with the biggest internet corporations active in Russia — concluded in August that the only way to implement the law was through deep packet inspection.

Websites

RFE/RL has republished Liz Fuller’s 2010 overview of Internet sites linked to the North Caucasus insurgency.

It is of course impossible even to guess what role the Internet glorification of the insurgency plays in mobilizing young men and women to “head for the forest” and join the fighters’ ranks. But to judge from the Chechen authorities’ determination to create equally attractive counterpropaganda sites, that role certainly is not negligible.

Masters of the Baltic

0008 The Open Library is, among other things, a useful repository of older books which have been scanned in their entirety, and can be read online free of charge. The books are mostly in English, but there are over one million of them, and they include almost everything, from long out-of-print editions of the classics through works of history and philosophy to travel studies and political memoirs. I came across this enormous library via a recent post at the German-language Estland blog, which contains links to a number of fascinating books about the early development of the Baltic States. New Masters of the Baltic  by Arthur Brown Ruhl (Dutton, 1921) take a detailed look at the situation of Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in the period immediately following their independence, while The main issues confronting the minorities of Latvia and Eesti (1922) is a consideration of precisely that subject.

Report: cyberattacks on Georgia came from FSB and GRU

Via Axis News:

Security researchers from Greylogic published a report which concluded that the Main Intelligence Directorate of Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU) and the Federal Security Service (FSB), rather than patriotic hackers, were likely to have played a key role in co-ordinating and organising the attacks, The Register writes. More circumstantial evidence has emerged linking the Russian authorities to cyber-attacks on Georgia that coincided with a ground war between the two countries in July and August last year.

The Stopgeorgia.ru forum, which became a fulcrum for attacks of key Georgian websites last year, uses an ISP located a few doors down from GRU headquarters. Greylogic reckons the site was added as a front for state-backed cyber-attacks under the cover of cybercrime.

The StopGeorgia.ru forum was part of a bulletproofed network that relied on shell companies and false WHOIS data to (a) prevent its closure through Terms of Service violations, and (b) to mask the involvement of the Russian FSB/GRU. By mimicking the structure of the Russian Business Network, a cyber criminal enterprise, it creates plausible deniability that it is a Kremlin-funded Information Operation. Greylogic’s study concludes: “The available evidence supports a strong likelihood of GRU/FSB planning and direction at a high level while relying on Nashi intermediaries and the phenomenon of crowdsourcing to obfuscate their involvement and implement their strategy.” Nashi is a youth group in Russia founded four years ago to counter anti-Russian and fascist tendencies in the country. The group is supposedly funded by Russian businessmen, but a pipeline from the Kremlin is suspected, The Register says. Long-standing rumours that Russia was behind cyber-attacks on neighbouring countries were recently fuelled when State Duma Deputy Sergei Markov claimed that one of his assistants was responsible for instigating cyber-attacks against Estonia in 2007. Shortly after this, Konstantin Goloskokov, a “commissar” in Nashi, claimed he and other associates were responsible for the month-long cyber-assault on Estonia. The Project Grey Goose Phase II report is a follow-up to an October report by the same group of security researchers on the Georgian cyber war.

See also: Moscow called on cyberterrorists to attack Georgian government networks

Facebook – 2

Last September I said that I didn’t want to join Facebook – however, as if to prove that we will all be on Facebook – or something like it – soon, I’ve changed my mind and joined. One of the factors that led me to do so was the sight of reasoned and intelligent discussions of Baltic and Nordic issues, not disrupted by trolls or troublemakers, taking place on Facebook in a calm and relaxed atmosphere. A step up from the comments boxes of many blogs and other public fora that explore such subjects.

Domain name change

On September 25 the Ingushetian authorities closed down the Ingushetiya.ru web site, which was owned by Magomed Yevloyev,the Ingush journalist, lawyer and businessman who on August 31 this year was murdered, it is believed, on the orders of President Murat Zyazikov. However, the site immediately changed its domain name and switched to a server the United States. It can now be accessed at the new URL Ingushetia.org.

At Window on Eurasia,  with particular reference to a recent interview with Russian security and intelligence expert Anatoly Soldatov, Paul Goble demonstrates how Moscow is currently struggling in its attempts to control the Internet,

… senior Russian intelligence officials have repeatedly called on Western governments to reach an agreement with Moscow to close sites that the Russian government has identified as connected with extremism or terrorism. But to date, no Western country has agreed to do that.

Great Britain had been edging toward an accord, the Agentura.ru editor says, but backed away after the Litvinenko murder. And as a result, “it is possible to register in England, to put out a Russian Internet publication and no requests from the Russian side will be considered. Simply because there is no legal basis for this.”

As a result, Soldatov concludes, Moscow will not be able to continue its struggle with independent-minded Internet sites without the use of hackers, a conclusion that the experience of other Russian sites tends to confirm (www.forum.msk.ru/material/news/533859.html and www.compromat.ru/main/internet/filter.htm).

Lost

One occasionally wonders where the BBC gets its foreign correspondents, and where its co-ordination goes at times of heightened international tension.  During the transmission of  President Saakashvili’s moving. eloquent and well-phrased address to more than 100,000 deeply affected Georgian citizens on Tbilisi’s Freedom Square, viewers were treated to a rambling series of voiceovers by bewildered correspondents whose main purpose seemed to be to call the president’s status into question. Mr. Saakashvili had been too “cocky”, we were told, and the assumption had to be that he was not a popular man – he wasn’t fighting for his country, but for his own position, etc., etc. Things were not much better on Sky, where the same lack of any translation of what Mr Saakashvili was actually saying prevailed, and the same insistent and almost desperate attempt to question his authority marked the contribution of the comments by so-called “foreign policy experts” on the voiceover.

When Richard Holbrooke was interviewed by Sky, still with the shots of the Saakashvili speech in frame, the interviewer asked him if he thought that Mr. Sasakashvili was guilty of “hubris”. At this, Holbrooke quite justifiably almost threw a fit, and told the interviewer he was blaming the victim. A shouting match ensued, and equilibrium was restored only when it became clear that Holbrooke could at least agree with the interviewer on the matter of criticizing the Bush administration – in particular, Bush himself and Condoleezza Rice – for its slowness in dealing with the Georgia situation.  

All this, coupled with the Brown government’s shameful 4-day silence on the Georgian crisis, a silence broken only yesterday, when prime minister Brown rather grudgingly, it seemed, issued a statement critical of Russia’s intervention, makes one very doubtful from time to time about the figures who actually control the media and politics in Britain. Perhaps a general election, bring the advent of a Conservative government here, may clear the air – certainly David Cameron’s public statement on the crisis was the most coherent and convincing to be heard from British statesmen, laid the blame fairly and squarely where it belongs, at Russia’s door.

Civil Georgia site under DDOS attack

A notice posted on the Civil Georgia news and information site calls the attention of its users, noting that the server is under permanent DDOS attack and may fail to respond. Users are requested to register, by clicking on “Subscription”, or subscribing to the mailing list – to do so, send direct mail to civilgeorgia@una.ge requesting updates.

An alternative URL is www.civilgeorgia.ge

Russia’s military plans for Europe

As federal Russian forces widen their assault on Georgia, now extending it to aerial attacks on targets and infrastructure throughout the country, the information war intensifies. Russia-based cyber raids on official Georgian sites continue: the first of these took place before the Russian invasion, on July 22, when the Georgian President’s website was subjected to a DDos attack. Since August 8, Russian hackers have been concentrating their efforts not only on Georgian government sites, but also on Georgia-based sources of news and information, such as the independent Civil Georgia and Rustavi-2 sites. The message is at last plain for all the world to see – Russia’s intention is to destroy the Georgian state, and to depose its President. The South Ossetian enclave is being utilized to the last as a bridge by means of which heavy armour can be introduced to the republic’s territory, as bombing of civilian targets increases from the air.

Predictably, in some Western countries the voices of people who would prefer appeasement of Russia are being raised. But the difficulty is that, whether it wants to or not, the West can’t stand aside now. The trap that has been set for Georgia is also set for the rest of Europe – for Russia intends to embroil not only the Caucasus but the whole of the continent of Europe in a conflict that could decide the fate of this part of the world for many years to come, and by achieving a nexus of interests related to oil and energy supply, military security and political influence It has already succeeded quite a long way in doing this.

In the Cold War, it was possible for East and West to hold apart in an armed separation that held the peace. We are now in a different era. If there is total war between Georgia and Russia – and the possibility of this now looks real – it will be the worst crisis in Europe since the Second World War, because it will result in a confrontation between Russia and the West –including the United States – of a kind that has not been seen before. As some observers have already pointed out, it will be far worse than the Balkan wars in the former Yugoslavia, which were strictly localized.

The cyber attacks which Russia is increasingly using as a weapon to extend its reach are symptomatic, in that they do not only affect the security of states like Estonia, Lithuania and Georgia. Other countries, including those of “old Europe”, are also now exposed. For example, an official British cabinet report has just pointed out that cyber attacks from Russia and China have become one of the greatest threats to Britain’s national security. If we add in the apparent insouciance with which Russian special services are prepared to carry out operations on foreign soil, including acts of extreme violence which endanger the civilian population, as in the Litvinenko affair, and the recent announcement that Russia is to create  five or six new groups of aircraft carrier forces in the Northern and Pacific Ocean Fleets, we have a picture of a Russia that is moving step by step towards a military showdown with the West, and above all with the United States.