The NYT took notice (finally).

Cyberwarfare is a method of electronic sabotage. It’s not a new idea nor is it a real attack. It’s a way of sabotaging businesses and government web-based tools to cause confusion or monetary losses.

Estonia recently came under a severe DDoS attack from Russia that temporarily shut down online financial and government sites. China also stepped up “cyberwarfare” but so far sticks to industrial espionage.

According to the report, the Chinese Army sees computer network operations “as critical to achieving ‘electromagnetic dominance’ ” — whatever that is — early in a conflict.

The United States is arming up, as well. Robert Elder, commander of the Air Force Cyberspace Command, told reporters in Washington at a recent breakfast that his newly formed command, which defends military data, communications and control networks, is learning how to disable an opponent’s computer networks and crash its databases.

“We want to go in and knock them out in the first round,” he said, as reported on

The Internet as a whole is not particularly vulnerable. It is highly redundant and many are used to dealing with routine errors and failures, so they can adapt to attacks. However, individual websites can be individually shut down.

Offense is the only way to shut down both the hackers as well as retaliate against the offending state.

The main method of attack in Estonia — through what is known as a digital denial of service — doesn’t disable computers from within, but simply stacks up so much digital debris at the entryway that legitimate visitors, like bank customers, can’t get in.

That’s too great a risk for a government to want to engage in what amounts to high-tech harassment, Mr. Lewis said. “The Russians are not dumb,” he said.

I think the Russians are that dumb…

StrategyPage describes the method:

It appears that China and Russia, or at least their security services, have made deals with some of the gangs. It works like this. If the secret police want some Internet based spying done, or a DDOS attack unleashed on someone, the gangs will do it, or help government Cyber War organizations do so. In return, the gangs have a safe haven. The gangs have to refrain from major operations against the country they are in, but most of the targets are in the West (that’s where most of the money is).

Criminals and states have a closer relationship than Westerners realize. Sometimes foreign states can act through criminal proxies while retaining plausible deniablity.