New research suggests that during last year’s five-day war between Russia and Georgia, Russian hackers used a combination of hijacked American identities and U.S. software tools to carry out an attack on Georgian governmental websites. A major issue with cyber warfare is that current military and international agreements do not yet account for the use of new American technologies as weapons.
The U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit has determined that to perform these attacks, Russian hackers not only manipulated the more commonly used Microsoft Corp. software,but also U.S.-based social-networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.
“Each one of these things by itself is not all that new, but this combines them in ways we just haven’t seen before,” said Amit Yoran a former cybersecurity chief at the Department of Homeland Security and current CEO of NetWitness Corp.
Although the hackers were not directly linked to the government the timing shows an indirect coordination effort according to a report by John Bumgarner, chief technical officer at the USCCU and a former cyber sleuth at the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency. According to Bumgarner, “Taking out communications systems at the onset of an attack is standard military practice.”
These attacks resulted in 20 of the country’s websites being disabled for more than a week including the website of the president, defense minister, National Bank of Georgia, and major news outlets.
The Obama administration reviewed the current cybersecurity policy in April and officials are currently in the process of studying how laws need to account for new technologies.