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Kremlin website hit by 'powerful' cyber attack

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Timothy Heritage, Maria Tsvetkova, Tatyana Ustinova, Dmitry Antonov and Lidia Kelly

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Opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin were celebrating on Friday, having taken the Kremlin website offline.

Opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin were celebrating on Friday, having taken the Kremlin website offline. Photo: Reuters

Victories are hard to come by for Vladimir Putin's opponents, activists are jailed, protests draw dwindling crowds, but on Friday they celebrated a minor triumph by briefly knocking out the Kremlin website.

To red faces in the Kremlin and government, the central bank's site was also brought down by a cyber attack and the Foreign Ministry suffered similar problems.

"A powerful cyber attack is under way on the [Kremlin] site," a spokeswoman for the Russian president's press service said by telephone as security experts struggled to curtail disruption. All three sites were working later on Friday.

A group calling itself Anonymous Russia highlighted the Kremlin website's crash on Twitter, signaling it may have been behind the attack. The same group said it brought down the website in May 2012 in solidarity with protests against Putin on his return for a third term as president.

A Kremlin source told Itar-Tass news agency there was no link with "the events in Ukraine", referring to the standoff with the West over Crimea, which votes on Sunday on unification with Russia.

But the cyber attack reveals a small chink in the Kremlin's defences as it defies Western demands to pull forces back to base on the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula.

Critics may see Friday's attacks as revenge for similar attacks on official websites in Ukraine since the national parliament ousted Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich last month and the standoff with Russia worsened.

Friday's attacks are particularly embarrassing for Putin because Russia blocked access to the internet sites of prominent Kremlin critics Alexei Navalny and Garry Kasparov on Thursday, under a new law critics say is designed to silence dissent.

Hacktivism

"In this case we are talking about 'hacktivism', a form of cyber attacks which is an expression of political or social protest," said Sergei Lozhkin, an expert at the Kaspersky Lab computer security firm.

"For someone who has certain skills it is much easier to attack the government website or the media than organise a real protest or demonstration."

He said there had also been similar attacks this week on the internet sites of several Russian media outlets that support Putin, causing embarrassment although having no lasting impact on them.

The Kremlin denies allegations of censorship or pressure on the media but Thursday's move was the latest in what government opponents see as a crackdown on independent media and particularly the internet.

The internet is less easy to control than the state channels which dominate the airwaves in Russia and social websites have been used by Putin's opponents to summon people to protests against him.

Soon after Yanukovich's removal in Ukraine, the new authorities said the country's telecommunications system had come under cyber attack, with equipment installed in Russian-controlled Crimea used to interfere with mobile phones of members of parliament.

Unidentified sources later launched denial-of-service (DoS) attacks - intended to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users - on Ukraine's top security body, the Security and Defence Council.

Reuters

11 comments

  • Were the faces as red as the one's at NATO? (site also hacked a few days ago by a mob claiming to be the 'Berkut cyber team'

    Commenter
    PGes
    Date and time
    March 17, 2014, 12:28PM
    • I refuse to eat borscht until Crimea is free.

      Commenter
      david
      Date and time
      March 17, 2014, 3:06PM
      • Cyber war is a fact. Its wrong and destructive as web sites can promote understanding and prevent misunderstandings. This type of hacking serves no purpose at all.

        Commenter
        G Sacrmento
        Date and time
        March 17, 2014, 3:22PM
        • So waiting for the real stuff to happen. Anonymous Russia disables all Nuclear warheads in Russia via cyber attack and lock down all doors and access with trigger to detonate if any attempts of re-entry is made.

          Commenter
          Dreamer
          Date and time
          March 17, 2014, 4:55PM
        • Oh please. The Russians have for a long time promoted state sanctioned hacking as evidenced by the Latvian, Georgian, NATO and Ukraine. In fact the state interior ministry organs often work in collusion with hackers and organised crime. Well done for Anonymous for making a stand against a rougue terrorist state.

          Commenter
          Bot
          Date and time
          March 18, 2014, 2:00AM
        • Web sites can also misinform and incite to riot. They can so easily be a path for propaganda. So given misinformation is wrong, then blocking misinformation is right. As such blocking the path used by misinformation serves a valid and worthwhile purpose.

          I am not trying to say who is right and who is wrong in this situation, however I firmly believe "hacking" sites is far les damaging than invasion and murder. Whilst two wrongs don't make a right, many conflicts require the "right" party to do things that would otherwise be considered "wrong" (including killing) in order to survive - let alone triumph.

          Commenter
          John
          Location
          Canberra
          Date and time
          March 18, 2014, 8:16AM
      • The people of Crimea voted by an overwhelming MAJORITY to reunite with Russia. It was the manifestation of democratic will, and now perhaps the people of Tibet, Palestine, Kashmir and Sinkiang Uighur can exercise similar freedom of expression. Maybe Quebec and Scotland are next in referendums. People should accept majority wishes and democratic procedures.

        Commenter
        Getoverit
        Date and time
        March 17, 2014, 4:35PM
        • Russia uses the excuse that Crimea was once part of Russia to use their UN Veto but that Veto was given to the USSR, as Russia didn't exist post WWII, so Crimea was actually part of the USSR.
          Would we accept a Serbian Invasion of Slovenia on the basis that it was once theirs?
          The UN should cancel Russia's Veto on the technicality that Russia did not exist when WWII was over.

          Commenter
          Andrew
          Location
          Geraldton
          Date and time
          March 17, 2014, 6:53PM
          • @David - Crimea IS free, now.

            Commenter
            Alan
            Date and time
            March 17, 2014, 7:42PM
            • The continued prejudice of anti Russian, anti Putin reporting will leave the western media with egg on its face. We are beyond the cold war and the world wants to move beyond the constant warmongering by the US. Here is another hack that will go unreported by the presstitues -http://www.rt.com/usa/syrian-army-sea-centcom-946/

              Commenter
              missd
              Date and time
              March 17, 2014, 9:21PM

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