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Political Hacking, State Responses?

03/09/2009

Just in the last month or so, there has been a spate of reports illustrating the offensive use of the internet by politically or religiously motivated hackers.

In China, the Uighur ‘Spy HackerZ’ group is suspected of defacing a number of local government websites, leaving messages in support of Uighurs and Muslims.  Indonesian hackers claim to haveattacked dozens of Malaysian websites on Malaysia’s independence day, calling it payback for Malays ‘stealing’ their culture.

Islamist hackers are thought to be behind a more serious distributed denial-of-service (DDoS)attack on Kosavar newspaper, The Express, in response to the paper’s coverage of the US trial of Hysen Sherifi, an ethnic Albanian accused of terrorism offences.  Disruptions to Armenian government and high-profile private websites have been blamed on Azeri and Turkish hackers, and are probably related to the long-running dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Twitter and other social networking sites were laid low after hackers tried to drive Georgian blogger, CYXYMU, off the web. Shortly thereafter, the non-profit US Cyber Consequences Unit released a report heavily implicating Russian criminals in the cyberattacks against Georgia in 2008.

None of this is really ‘new’ to long-term internet-watchers, but it does show – once again – how important the internet is as a vehicle and focus of offensive actions by a wide range of political non-state actors. Strategic planners take this as read these days, although no-one has really come up with appropriate responses to this element of the transnational threat environment. Jailing a couple of Azeri bloggers for a talking donkey is hardly a well-considered counterstrategy. Securing your own systems properly might be.

As the technical tools of propaganda and persuasion become more widely distributed, and the barriers to entry lower, how will your government respond?