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<nettime> Information War Intensifies as Unrest in Kyrgyzstan Continues
Geert Lovink on Wed, 9 Mar 2005 13:44:56 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> Information War Intensifies as Unrest in Kyrgyzstan Continues (ONI)


(the same people in toronto recently launched the www.civiblog.org
service. /geert)

From: opennet-bounces {AT} opennetinitiative.net
Subject: Information War Intensifies as Unrest in Kyrgyzstan Continues

Special Coverage: Information War Intensifies as Unrest in Kyrgyzstan
Continues
- Motives Remain Unclear as Disruptions Increase

Bishkek, 5 March February 2005 (ONI). The Kyrgyz Internet is becoming a
battleground as unrest triggered by last week's inconclusive
parliamentary vote spreads. Two leading Internet Service providers are
embattled from an alleged hacker attack and pressure to remove
information about growing unrest in the country. A series of e-mails
from a hacker(s) calling himself "Shadow Team" posted to Elcat and Asia
Info and obtained by ONI, claimed responsibility for the attacks and
demanded that the service providers remove the websites of two Kyrgyz
newspapers <www.msn.kg> and < www.respublica.kg>. "Shadow Team" also
sent e-mail to a popular regional news site < www.centralasia.ru>,
demanding that it stop publishing all information about the situation
in Kyrgyzstan. Respublica's ISP, Elcat, complied with the hackers'
demands and temporarily suspended publishing the newspapers website.
The decision to suspend the website appears to have been agreed to by
Elcat and the publishers of the newspaper, as Elcat also hosts many
Kyrgyz NGOs, international organizations and other civil society
groups.

The attacks claimed by "shadow team" have proven disruptive to the
Kyrgyz Internet at a critical time for political authorities. The
identity of the hacker(s) remains unknown, and "shadow team" may itself
be taking credit for others' work, or in at least one case, for the
operation of a more general computer worm (variants of the
W32/Bagle.dldr). Ongoing investigations by ONI researchers suggest that
there are two simultaneous DDOS events occurring. The first is a result
of a computer worm that is affecting Elcat servers but may not have any
link to the elections. The second smaller attack maybe a DDOS caused by
"shadow team". ONI research suggests that "shadow team" may be an
independent CIS-based hacker working without any clear political
motive.

The lack of a clearly defined motive for the attacks, or clarity if it
is indeed an attack, opens the question of whose interest the hackers
are ultimately serving - if anyone=FFs. The attacks have not affected
the ability of the Kyrgyz newspaper to publish or distribute paper
copies of their newspapers. Likewise, sites like centralasia.ru can
easily circumvent DDOS attacks by mirroring on multiple IP addresses.
The specific tool and vulnerability used in the attacks appears to be
well known, so it is only a matter of time before the attack loses
effectiveness.

Some opposition leaders have seized on the attacks claiming that the
Kyrgyz government is launching an on-line censorship campaign.
According to unconfirmed reports , government officials appear nervous
about the perception that they are seen to be responsible for putting
pressure on ISPs to close the newspaper sites. Sources claim that they
have requested that Elcat reinstate the sites.

The denial of service attacks appear to be adding to the political
unrest in Kyrgyzstan. The seriousness with which the ISPs, the
government and the opposition are treating this matter suggests that
the Internet is an increasingly important new battleground. An
estimated 300,000 out of a total population of around 5 million in this
post-Soviet republic have access to the Internet, and information
obtained from the Internet is circulated widely to those without direct
access. The rising concern among the government, ISPs and the
opposition suggests that everyone has a stake in keeping the Internet
open, while deflecting blame to "third parties" for circumstances
leading to its closure.

The ONI will release a detailed report covering Internet access during
the Kyrgyz election in the weeks following the second round of voting
scheduled for 13 March.

* * *

The OpenNet Initiative (ONI) is a partnership between the Advanced
Network Research Group, Cambridge Security Programme at Cambridge
University, and the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International
Studies, University of Toronto, and the Berkman Center for Internet &
Society at Harvard Law School. In the CIS region, the ONI works in
partnership with the Eurasian i-Policy Network. ONI reports and
bulletins covering the CIS are published in English and Russian at
www.opennetinitiative.net and www.internetpolicy.kg. A blog of data
collected by ONI researchers can be found on Civiblog.org
kg.civiblog.org

Note: Media inquiries, please contact:

Rafal Rohozinski, Advanced Network Research Group,Cambridge Security
Programme: rar20 at cus.cam.ac.uk

Further background information about Kyrgyzstan can be found at the
following sites:

http://www.eurasianet.org/resource/kyrgyzstan/index.shtml
http://www.alertnet.org/thefacts/countryprofiles/217261.htm


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