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[ISN] Estonian attacks reveal vulnerability of corporate networks


By Jeremy Kirk
IDG news service
17 May 2007

A spate of denial of service attacks in Estonia has revealed the extent 
to which corporate networks are vulnerable to such onslaughts. Although 
the attacks in Estonia appear to be subsiding, the government there has 
called for greater response mechanisms to cyber attacks within the 
European Union.

The attacks, which started around 27 April, have crippled websites for 
Estonia's prime minister, banks, and less-trafficked sites run by small 
schools, said Hillar Aarelaid, chief security officer for Estonia's 
Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). But most of the affected 
websites have been able to restore service.

"Yes, it's serious problem, but we are up and running," Aarelaid said.

Aarelaid said analysts have found postings on websites indicating 
Russian hackers may be involved in the attacks. However, analysis of the 
malicious traffic shows that computers from the US, Canada, Brazil, 
Vietnam and others have been used in the attacks, he said. NATO experts 
are helping Estonia investigate the attacks, Aarelaid said.

Press reports also speculated that tension between the two countries may 
have resulted in a coordinated campaign by Russia against Estonia. Last 
month, Estonia irked Russia by moving a Soviet-era World War II memorial 
of a bronze soldier, sparking protests. Aarelaid dismissed the theory, 
saying Estonians were also divided on the issue.

A DOS attack involves commanding other computers to bombard a website 
with requests for data, causing the site to stop working. Hackers use 
botnets - or groups of computers they've infected with malicious 
software - to launch an attack.

It's difficult to trace who controls botnets, as the networks involve 
compromised computers located around the world.

"If you have an unknown number of attackers with different skills and 
capabilities, it's quite painful," Aarelaid said.

In Brussels on Monday, Estonia's defence minister, Jaak Aaviksoo, called 
for the development of a stronger capability to respond to cyber attacks 
within the European Union.

"Extensive cyber attacks against Estonia show clearly that this matter 
should be seriously dealt with and relevant information exchange with 
one another," Aaviksoo said.

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