August 27, 2008

Toronto ‘Hacktivists’ Track Web Wars

A group of University of Toronto researchers who call themselves "hacktivists" is studying how criminals and governments are staging cyber attacks.

The 7-year-old Citizen's Lab was opened by Ronald Deibert with funding from the Ford Foundation, initially to try to help people living in countries that censor online content, the Washington Post reported.

Since then, the team has been noticing a rise in political attacks, most recently during Russia's and Georgia's ground war, Deibert said.

Researchers noticed a spike in shut-down attacks on Georgia's Internet structure that managed to knock it out completely as troops fought in the streets. In turn, nearly all Russian media were blocked from view in Georgia, leaving citizens without any information, the report said.

Deibert said some outages are temporary and technical in nature, "but what's more effective is blasting a site into oblivion when it is strategically important," he told the Post. "It's becoming a real arms race."