By Mark Sutton
Georgia accuses Russia of launching cyber attacks against government web sites
Georgia has accused Russia of using cyber warfare against the country, as part of the ongoing conflict between the two countries over the South Ossetia region.
Authorities in Georgia claim that the Russians launched a co-ordinated campaign of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against many Georgian government websites on Friday, when armed hostilities broke out.
According to the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs many sites were affected, and authorities were resorting to setting up alternate sources of information including blogs.
A statement on the emergency blog read: "A cyber warfare campaign by Russia is seriously disrupting many Georgian websites, including that of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."
Among the sites that were taken down by DDoS attacks were the Georgian Ministry of Defence, the site of the Georgian Parliament, the Foreign Ministry and the President's office. While some of the sites have been restored, the first two are still unavailable at time of writing.
Georgian web traffic has also been redirected to servers in Russia and Turkey, with the traffic either blocked or diverted away from the sites that were trying to be reached.
Authorities and telecoms providers in Germany and Poland have both come to the aid of Georgia, by rerouting traffic through their servers and by hosting information on Polish websites.
It is unclear whether the attacks represent an official Russian government sponsored attack, or are the work of nationalist hacking groups. Security researchers tracking the criminal hacking group Russian Business Network (RBN) say that the group is involved, and is actively distributing tools online to encourage other hackers.
Russia was previously accused of using cyber attacks against Estonia in April and May last year, when web sites belonging to Estonian government departments, political parties, media and corporations were blocked by DDoS attacks, in the middle of a row between the two states. It was not proven at the time whether the attacks were directed by Russian authorities, although some attacks were seen originating from IP addresses linked to Russian state institutions.