Russian cyber criminals supported Georgia attacks

Cyber attacks will continue to feature alongside military battles like the conflict between Georgia and Russia last year, a security expert has said.

Last year, cyber attacks against Georgian networks happened alongside fighting with Russian forces. A report by the US Cyber Consequences Unit (US-CCU) said that Russian criminal gangs did not bother to conceal their involvement in last August's attacks, appearing to want to get the credit for it.

The report shows the web servers, addresses and botnets used to control the cyber attacks on Georgia were the same as ones previously used by Russian cyber criminals.

But while there must have been cooperation between the Russian military and the cyber criminals, due to the proximity of the attacks to actual military fighting at the time, all signs suggest civilians carried out the attacks, with some recruited using social networks.

The report said that botnets and command and control centres associated with organised crime carried out the first wave of attack.

After that, the campaign was maintained and expanded by website postings. The actual cyber attacks were limited to denials of service and website defacement, but these were described as "sophisticated".

The US-CCU monitored much of the activity as it was taking place, looking at data including network traffic and security logs.

Chief technical officer John Bumgarner wrote in an email to IT PRO: "While much of this material was previously known, I feel that this current research has produced the most complete and authoritative picture available of what exactly happened."

"The real story isn't about Georgia, of course," he added. "It's about the sort of cyber campaign that we can now expect to accompany most future international conflicts if they become intense enough."