<IT WORLD> Georgia under web fire
By Martin J Young
HUA HIN, Thailand - As tanks and shattered buildings grabbed the attention of
TV crews covering the Russian offensive in Georgia, a second front in the war
between the two countries received less attention - in cyberspace. Security
research firms monitoring network traffic across the Internet noted anomalies
in web traffic to Georgian websites and servers up to a month before the
conflict broke out last week.
These cyber attacks appear on the surface to have been made by Russian hackers
and activists seeking to destabilize and even bring down the Georgian Internet
They come in the form of coordinated data requests to the servers, overloading
them and rendering any websites hosted in
Georgia inaccessible. Commonly known as distributed denial of service (DDOS)
attacks, they can be set up from any country or server to target any other one
relatively easily. Automated software scripts are installed and act as
parasites on a number of networked host computers called botnets to send
repetitive data packets to the target IP address, in this case the website of
the president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, among others.
Attacks have continued even after the president's website was transferred to
another hosting company in the United States. The new host, Atlanta-based firm
Tulip Systems, founded by Georgian-born Nino Doijashvili, has reported spurious
traffic to the server outnumbering genuine traffic by as much as 5,000 to 1.
The site was still unavailable at the time of writing so the ongoing cyber
attack seems to be succeeding. Georgian media, telecommunications and
transportation servers were also attacked.
Online grassroots communities have united and set up websites in Russian
offering software available for download to initiate DDOS attacks. The Georgian
government's website was hacked on Monday, with the front page replaced with
images of Adolf Hitler. Georgian hackers have retaliated with their own cyber
attacks on Russian websites, but as in the physical world they have been
largely out-gunned and bloggers who have attempted to post photos of the
advance of the Russian military machine have rapidly found their own websites
under counter fire.
The Russian government has officially denied any involvement in the web
warfare. By their nature, cyber attacks do offer plausible deniability as
tracking down the perpetrators is virtually impossible.
Similar cyber attacks were launched last year on Estonia and Ukraine. Georgia
does not have a large Internet population (its entire population numbers less
than 5 million) so the damage was limited to a few government websites, however
a similar attack on an Internet-dependent nation such as Israel or any of the
major European nations would be far more destructive.
As nations become more dependent on the Internet the likelihood of it becoming
a viable target increases. Military technology is more than capable of
pinpointing and destroying buildings and strategic installations, but severe
damage can also be caused on a country's economy and infrastructure if its
ability to access online information is severed. Media, finance, transport,
telecoms, military and government online operations can all be hit at the same
time, sending the target nation spiraling into chaos.
The conflict of today is still waged with guns and bombs but the future of
modern warfare will also involve cyberspace as this recent wave of attacks has
Microchip giant Intel has announced the brand of its upcoming Nehalem processor
this week, which will be referred to as Core i7. The new multi-core chips
manufactured on 45 nanometer technology will include a performance boosting
integrated memory controller hub.
CPU naming convention started to cause confusion when the clock speed numbers
lost their appeal. Back in the days when a Pentium 1.2GHz processor was exactly
that you knew what you were getting, these days we're faced with a mind-numbing
array of numbers and code names leaving all but the most knowledgeable geeks in
Intel's current naming choice of Core 2 for its multi-core processors with the
suffix Duo for second-generation chips still left consumers wondering how many
gigahertz it would be equivalent to. AMD started with a smarter approach with
its "equivalent speed" convention so potential users could work out that an X2
5600+ processor would be a dual core 2.8GHz equivalent or close to it. This all
went pear-shaped when the company started manufacturing triple and quad core
processors under the Phenom name.
Now that Intel is offering a Core i7 users are again left wondering what lies
behind the name, since there is very little connection between this new naming
convention and what the processor is actually capable of. Until Intel releases
an explanation, users will just have to treat it as another new "brand" or
processor class as we did with Atom.
ongoing battle in graphics card technologies has heated up again this week with
AMD's latest salvo. The targets are Nvidia's current flagship and industry
topping cards the GTX 260 and GTX 280. AMD is back at the top of the tree with
its Radeon HD 4870 X2, which packs 2.4 teraflops, or 2.4 trillion calculations
per second, of processing punch and drinks 270 watts of power. Weighing in at a
retail price of US$550, the dual processor card sports two gigabytes of GDDR5
memory with a bandwidth of 230GB/s. In other words it's fast, very fast.
AMD has also entered into a partnership with Blizzard Entertainment, which
produces World of Warcraft, one of the most popular PC games in the world. The
semiconductor company will be bundling Blizzard Entertainment titles with all
ATI Radeon graphics cards it sells.
In another big day of downloads dubbed "Patch Tuesday", Microsoft has released
its largest security update in 18 months to patch 26 vulnerabilities in
Windows, Office and Internet Explorer. Six of the security fixes were tagged as
critical and at least two of them have already been exploited in the wild.
A number of security holes in Internet Explorer versions 6 and 7 were fixed and
plenty of attention was given to Microsoft's Office suite which was also filled
with flaws. So if all this still hasn't put you off using IE and Office make
sure your automatic updates are enabled, alternatively take a look at Firefox
and Open Office.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.