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The 2008 Russian Cyber-Campaign Against Georgia
Abstract and Figures
In August 2008, the Russian Army invaded georgia. numerous, coordinated cyber attacks accompanied the military campaign. this represents the first instance of a large-scale computer network attack (CNA) conducted in tandem with major ground combat operations. The attack had no direct connection to the Russian government, but had a significant informational and psychological impact on Georgia: it effectively isolated the Caucasus state from the outside world. Security experts have identified two phases of the Russian cyber cam-paign against Georgia. The first phase commenced on the evening of 7 August when Russian hackers targeted Georgian news and government websites. 1 Russian Military Forecasting Center official Colonel Anatoly Tsyganok said these first actions were a response to Georgians hacking South Ossetian media sites earlier in the week. 2 The fact that the alleged counterattacks occurred only one day prior to the ground campaign has led many security experts to suggest that the hackers knew about the date of the invasion beforehand. In the first phase of the attack, the Russian hackers primarily launched distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. A denial of service attack is a cyber attack that attempts to prevent the legitimate use of a computing resource. When multiple computers achieve this goal, a distributed denial of service attack has occurred. One way to categorize DDoS attacks is to differentiate between semantic and brute force attacks. A semantic DDoS takes advantage of either a feature or bug in some software on the target system. A brute force (or "flooding") DDoS attack occurs when the target system receives more Internet traffic than it can handle, which exhausts the command and control resources of the server, rendering it unavailable. 3 The DDoS attacks during this phase were primarily carried out by botnets. 4 A botnet is a group of computers on the Internet (termed "bots" or "zombies") that have been infected with a piece of software known as malware. The malware allows a computer "command and control" server to issue commands to these bots. Often, botnets launch spam email Captain Paulo Shakarian is an as-sistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the U.S. Military Academy (USMA). He holds a B.S. from USMA and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. He served two tours in Iraq in various military intelligence positions. PHOTO: Russian soldiers are seen atop an armored vehicle in the breakaway Georgian Province of South Ossetia, 8 August 2008. (AP Photo/Musa Sadulayev)
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