Russian sympathisers bring down Nato websites [Cape Times (South Africa)]
(Cape Times (South Africa) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) BRUSSELS: Hackers have brought down public Nato websites in continuing cyberspace attacks apparently linked to growing tensions over Crimea.
The Western military alliance's spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, said on Twitter that cyber attacks had begun on Saturday evening and continued yesterday, although most services had been restored.
"It doesn't impede our ability to command and control our forces. At no time was there any risk to our classified networks," another official said.
Nato's main public website - which carried a statement by secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen saying if Crimea's referendum yesterday led to the Black Sea peninsula becoming part of Russia, this would violate international law and lack legitimacy - was accessible only intermittently.
The so-called "distributed denial of service" attack, in which hackers bombard websites with requests, causing them to slow or crash, also hit the site of a Nato-affiliated cyber security centre in Estonia. Nato's unclassified e-mail network was also affected.
A group calling itself "cyber berkut" said the attack had been carried out by patriotic Ukrainians angry about what they saw as Nato interference in their country.
The claim, made in Russian at www.cyber-berkut.org, could not be independently verified.
"Berkut" is a reference to the feared and since disbanded riot squads used by the government of Ukraine's ousted pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych.
Cyber warfare expert Jeffrey Carr, in a blog on the attacks, described the cyber berkut as staunch supporters of Yanukovych and a "pro-|Russia hacktivist group working against Ukrainian independence".
Lungescu noted the statement by "a group of hacktivists", but said that, due to the complexities involved in attributing the attacks, Nato would not speculate about who was responsible or their motives.
John Bumgarner, chief technology officer at the US Cyber Consequences Unit, a non-profit research institute, said evidence suggested the cyber attacks were launched by Russian sympathisers.
"One could equate these cyber attacks against Nato to kicking sand into one's face," he said.
Attacks on Nato's computer systems are common, but an official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the weekend assault had been serious.
Ian West, director of Nato's cyber defence nerve centre at Mons in southern Belgium, said last year that the alliance's network intrusion detection systems handled about 147 million "suspicious events" a day. There had been about 2 500 confirmed serious attacks on its computers in the previous year.
The largely Russian-speaking Crimea has been occupied by Russian forces for two weeks.
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