Have DDoS Attacks Now Evolved into Cyber-Warfare?

How does an insurance policy respond to denial of service resulting in multi-national riots? That’s the rhetorical pondering of an underwriter that was stimulated by the cyber-warfare allegedly launched by Russia on its little neighbor Estonia.

Estonia is a member of the European Union and NATO and sits on Russia’s northwestern border. You may recall that the country drew protests from Russia when it removed a Russian war memorial from the center of the capital city. Estonia removed the monument because to many Estonians it was a symbol of Russian occupation. To Russians and some Estonians of Russian heritage, it was a memorial to the massive Russian sacrifice of lives in opposing the Nazis in World War II. Riots and a blockade of the Estonian embassy in Russia followed removal of the monument. The riots and blockade have ended, but Estonia now says it is the target of denial of service attacks from around the world but, most notably, from some Russian government computers.

Russia is the home of some of the planet’s most accomplished hackers and bot network operators. While cyber attacks that were culturally and politically motivated have taken place before, it sounds as if this is the broadest assault yet and it is directed against a national government. The accusations seem to suggest the Russian government encouraged, and perhaps has participated in, the attack.

The U.S. government has for some time talked about and planned for cyber-warfare, but this may be the first time we’ve seen such an assault take place. For information about more typical kinds of Denial of Service attacks, read our previous post on Cyber Extortion.