Cyberattacks became part of Russia-Georgia war

While Russia and Georgia engaged in a vicious military conflict, they have been locked on another battlefront - in cyberspace.

While Russia and Georgia engaged in a vicious military conflict, they have been locked on another battlefront - in cyberspace.

As Russia and Georgia today entered into a ceasefire to end their military conflict over the separatist region of South Ossetia - estimated to have claimed 2,000 lives - details have emerged of online attacks that appeared to be part of the conflict.

In the war that started last Friday, Russia claims to be protecting its citizens living in South Ossetia who want to breakaway from Georgia, which became an independent state 17 years ago following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In cyberspace, as on the ground, Georgia seems to have come off worse in the conflict over South Ossetia.

Although such internet attacks are usually untraceable, both sides accuse the other of cyber aggression.

Russian reports claim that South Ossetian government sites were brought down by Georgian hackers.

And Georgian official websites, including government departments, have suffered attacks.

Georgia's parliament website was defaced by a group calling itself the "South Ossetia Hack Crew". The site's contents were replaced with a montage of images of the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, and Adolf Hitler. At the time of writing, the site was not working.

The Georgian president's official website as well as other official Georgian government and commercial websites, including its ministry of foreign affairs, have also been forced offline at various times over the past week.

The ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement, "A cyber warfare campaign by Russia is seriously disrupting many Georgian websites, including that of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

It said that the contents of the president's website was being posted on the website of his Polish counterpart, under the link, "information about the latest developments in Georgia".

A message on that site says, "Along with military aggression, the Russian Federation is blocking Georgian internet portals. On request of the president of Georgia, president of the Republic of Poland has provided the website of the president of Poland for dissemination of information."

Georgia's use of the internet is not highly developed and so was not badly affected by the attacks, beyond limiting the government's ability to spread its message online.

Meanwhile, reports also claim that Russia's RIA Novosti news agency site has been targeted and was offline for ten hours earlier this week.

Last year saw Estonia, another former Soviet state, hit by a wave of cyberattacks, although some analysts believe that initial assumptions that Russia was behind them was wrong.

The attacks came after the Estonian government's decision to move a revered World War II memorial from the Soviet era. Although the Russian state came under suspicion, the attacks could have been undertaken by individuals angered by Estonia's move. The precise motives of such cyber action remain guesswork.

China has been blamed for a series of hack attacks on UK and other western websites.

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