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who was to blame, and what can or should be done about it?


Determining Responsibility for the Estonian Cyber Attack

Determining who was responsible for this cyber attack is the murkiest problem facing authorities in the aftermath of the Estonian assault.  Estonian officials claim to have proof that some of the earliest salvoes originated from Russian government computing centers, or affiliated centers ran by Nashi su and other similar organizations.  Yet it is exceedingly difficult to prove from where these attacks originated.  Thousands of attacks came from untraceable private computers around the world.  Most of these though were “script kiddies” who were goaded into attacking Estonian websites in Russian language chat rooms in which detailed instructions on how to launch botnet attacks were posted.53  This is the equivalent of an army recruitment pitch complete with marching orders.54  The ground troops were individuals using ping attacks; the air force was botnets; and the Special Forces were hackers using DDOS attacks.  An impromptu small number of savvy and well-connected internet operators led by Hillar Aarelaid, the head of ECERT, fended off the worst of the attacks even as Vladimir Putin was proclaiming during a parade of 7,000 Russian troops in Red Square that:  “Those who are trying today to...desecrate memorials to war heroes are insulting their own people, sowing discord and new distrust between states and peoples.”55

53 Botnet is a jargon term for a collection of software robots, or bots, which run autonomously and automatically on groups of zombie computers controlled remotely.

54 Davis, surpa note 2.

55 This was not the first time that Russia had been accused of orchestrating IW.  In fact, just a few weeks prior to the Estonian attacks, a similar assault had been launched against an alliance of Russian opposition parties led by chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov.  The attacks were designed to shut down the opposition websites just as government authorities announced a change in venue for an upcoming opposition rally.  With his site down, Kasparov had difficulty informing his followers of the change, and when they massed at the originally announced location, he was arrested for leading an illegal rally.  Davis, supra note 2.

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