Russian state and media websites have been hit by a wave of denial-of-service attacks. The attacks followed the blockage of several major Russian media outlets at the order of the Kremlin.
One of the attacks, on the presidential website of the Kremlin itself, is the most powerful ever to have hit that facility, according to Putin organ RT. However, the Kremlin also claimed this attack was entirely unrelated to the standoff in Ukraine.
Russia’s Central Bank also saw its website knocked offline on Friday morning, though it is partially back. Meanwhile, on Thursday, a local branch of Anonymous claimed responsibility for taking out the TV station Channel One:
Russian Central Television http://t.co/VTl7K8ReTD TANGO DOWN!!!
— Anonymous Caucasus (@AnonsCaucasus) March 13, 2014
That’s interesting because the first reaction of the affected station was to claim that the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack emanated from Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. Anonymous Caucasus was explicit in a subsequent tweet that the DDoS had nothing to do with Ukraine.
Such attacks use scores of computers — often surreptitiously hijacked to form a “botnet” — to bombard the target with more data than its systems can handle, until those systems temporarily collapse.
Ukrainian state and media organizations have reported many online attacks in recent weeks that may or may not have been orchestrated by the Kremlin.
“Violation of the established order”
Other Russian media outlets were also attacked on Thursday, and earlier in the week Anonymous Caucasus claimed responsibility for an attack on “lapdogs of the FSB” LifeNews (the FSB is the Russian security agency, the successor to the KGB).
The latest attacks, however, may be connected with the blocking on Thursday of several major news sites by Russian ISPs. This was on the Kremlin’s orders, under a 2012 law that was ostensibly designed to protect children from child pornography and material relating to drug use and suicide.
The sites affected here — grani.ru, kasparov.ru and ej.ru — are independent news sites with an anti-Putin bent. Also included in the ban was the LiveJournal blog of dissident Alexei Navalny, who is under house arrest.
“These sites contain incitement to illegal activity and participation in public events held in violation of the established order,” the Kremlin said (according to Google Translate).
If there was ever a case study in the danger of introducing censorship mechanisms on the basis of cleaning up the web – cough U.K. cough — this would be it.