Russia, cyber repression in the social networks era

Pierluigi Paganini December 22, 2011

Several times in these posts we have discussed of the importance of social media in recent years. Social Media are the valuable carrier to disclose political decisions taken by central governments. This is well known to the main strategist of governments such as Russia, the country where a massive cyber repressive action was carried out against the opposition websites and more generally against all those who have taken positions opposing the government dictates.

So here we are confronted with what is a real digital censorship, opposition websites under attack by phantom hackers, actions that have produced the desired effects … countless blogs have disappeared, massive and successfully actions of defacing on opposition websites, messages delete from social networks and forums judged to discuss against the the regime choices. It happened during the protests against anti-Putin, the focus has moved into cyberspace theater of this new repression. Dumbledore undoubtedly controversial but equally deafening. Nobody knows, nobody seems to contradict the imperative actions and whose authorship is given to hackers phantom whose reasons are frankly incomprehensible.

In recent months, Hell has successfully attacked with surgical precision blog and web sites of journalists and political activists, many of the opposition. Curious, isn’t it?

The mud machine did not stop here, but it has operated also beyond the elections, on 4 December all behind the silence of the mainstream press. That is an attack against the main tool of democracy, the vote.

One of the hardest hit company seems to have been the election monitoring group Golos, which has been under “massive distributed denial of service attacks. Why Golos? Because Golos was compiling a map of “election violations” occurred during vote, describing detailed places where irregularities have happened.

Golos , whose monitors vote operations are not affiliated with any party, and it has been funded largely by the US and EU, for this reason Prime Minister Putin has accused foreign powers of meddling in election preparations, while Duma members have questioned why a foreign-funded organisation is allowed to monitor Russian elections.

Is this another coincidence?

But attacks have continued in cyberspace involving social networking platforms, and ultimately making several account useless guilty of spreading news about what was happening. The operations performed with perfect synchrony, a clear demonstration of the presence of central direction.
Do you want an example? The Livejournal blog have been made ​​unavailable for over two days and also it is happened to Boris Akunin, a famous writer who has decided to enter politics against Putin and expressing discomfort that is common to many Russian intellectuals. His blog has been thrown down.

According to security experts at Yandex, Russia’s largest search portal, more than 200,000 computers were turned into “slaves” for the DDoS attack, in which a targeted site receives so many requests for access that it simply shuts down. It is a simple, cheap, and effective way to disrupt a Web site, at least temporarily.  Disabling web site is another strategy adopted by this cyber militias with the goal to eliminate reporting about street protests against the election violations.

The strategy of disinformation and obscuration through computer hacking operations had already been pursued in the past. It ‘happened in January 2002, Russian hackers when brought down for a day, the Chechen separatist fighters of websites. Other similar DDoS attacks aimed other web sites of independent media sources in Russia, as well as at government agencies in Estonia, Georgia, and Lithuania.

But what has really changed today? The availability of social media like social networks has effectively made impossible a total blackout. News of the crackdown have been around the world in real time outraging the people of the network.
So how can Russian Government operate a control of these new media? By investing on one side in new technologies and systems for network monitoring and on the other side developing and promoting the use of internal social networks, close to the government vision, that would be easy to control.

The truth is that the government fears the Internet and is unable to exercise a censorship would undermine the explicit form of the republican and democratic country.

I leave you in the hope that Russian hackers are not even entertained against me … in the meantime I do a backup of the blog.

Pierluigi Paganini


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