- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 12, 2008

As Russian forces fought their way into Georgia on Monday, Tbilisi said Moscow was also behind a huge cyberattack against the country, which disabled government and news Web sites and possibly cell-phone service for much of the weekend.

Russian officials denied the country was behind the attacks, which appeared to be the latest in a series of assaults by organized Russian hacker gangs against countries in conflict or tension with the resurgent bear.

“Russia is trying to isolate Georgia from the world,” Patrick Worms, an adviser to the Georgian government, said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Worms said a “huge” “distributed denial of service,” or DDOS, attack had taken down the government’s network of Web sites, and the two nongovernmental sites that are the main source for news and information about the country: Interpress and CivicGeorgia.

Over the weekend, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was posting statements and other updates on a blog site operated by Google Inc. “A cyberwarfare campaign by Russia is seriously disrupting many Georgian Web sites, including that of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” it said in a statement on the blog site.

Mr. Worms said most of the sites were back online Monday, hosted on “mirror servers” outside Georgia, in an effort organized by an international team of virtual volunteers.

But the Web site of the Ministry of Defense was still down Monday and during the afternoon, the Georgian parliament Web site was hacked, so that visitors saw a series of pictures of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili juxtaposed with images of Adolf Hitler in similar poses.

Mr. Worms said the attacks, which began as fighting erupted last week, had also affected the country’s cell-phone system. “For the first two days, it was almost impossible to use mobile phones here,” he said.

In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Mr. Saakashvili apologized for the difficulty the network had apparently had reaching him. “Our lines get under cyberattack,” he said. “That’s a new technology these days of war.”

Yevgeny Khorishko, a spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington, denied that his government had anything to do with the attacks.

“This is pure speculation and lies from the Georgian side,” he said. “We are not targeting the civilian infrastructure.”

Computer-security experts monitoring the attacks said they originated on a number of different hacker-controlled servers. “We have seen at least five,” said Steven Adair of ShadowServer.org - a volunteer computer-security group.

Similar hacker gangs were behind a massive DDOS attack on Estonian government Web sites last year, an assault that coincided with a wave of protests by ethnic Russians in the country against the relocation of a statue commemorating the driving out of Nazi occupiers by the Soviet army.

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