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Kremlin-backed youths launched Estonian cyberwar, says Russian official

Mea Culpa without the culpa

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Members of a Kremlin-backed youth group spearheaded the cyberattacks that paralyzed Estonia's internet traffic in May of 2007, a Russian government official has admitted.

Until recently, Russia has denied any involvement in the DDoS (or distributed denial of service) attacks, which followed a diplomatic row between the two countries. But in an interview with The Financial Times, a "commissar" in a Kremlin-backed youth group known as Nashe unapologetically said he and other associates were behind the month-long assault.

"I wouldn't have called it a cyber attack; it was cyber defence," the official, Konstantin Goloskokov, told the paper. "We taught the Estonian regime the lesson that if they act illegally, we will respond in an adequate way."

Applying what can fairly be described as twisted logic, Goloskokov continued: "We did not do anything illegal. We just visited the various internet sites, over and over, and they stopped working. We didn't block them: they were blocked by themselves because of their own technical limitations in handling the traffic they encountered."

The claim of responsibility came after Goloskokov's boss, Sergei Markov, recently alluded to the possibility a Russian official was behind the infamous cyberattacks. At a recent conference on information warfare in the 21st century, Markov said one of his assistants carried out the attacks. "I won't tell you his name, because then he might not be able to get visas," he said, leaving some to wonder if his comments were a joke.

Evidently, they weren't. But it would appear Russian officials are working to distance themselves from the attacks. While Nashe is the brainchild of the Kremlin's chief ideologist, Vladislav Surkov, it is privately financed. Goloskokov denied he and his associates were acting on orders from the Russian government. "We did everything based on our own initiative," he insisted.

Maybe, but we'd be surprised if Russian law enforcement officials, who are now presented with a confession of a sustained cyber assault that flooded Estonian government sites with some 100MB of data, took any kind of action against Nashe or its leader. Sometimes, inaction is all the action you need. ®

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