Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Russia shuts Ken Livingston down - EU delegation on its way

Let's suppose, for a second, that London was Estonia. Imagine if the statue of Karl Marx in Highgate Cometary was to be re-located to Westminster Abbey.

Two days later would we hear Ken Livingston, Mayor of London, reported as saying: "cyber terrorists'" attacks against Internet pages of City of London government agencies and the office of the Mayor originated from Russian government computers."

Well, according to the BBC and other media, that is what is happening in Estonia today. This is State sponsored cyber terrorism. It is an attack on the government of a NATO and EU member just as powerful as a tank on the lawn.

Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves on Wednesday called on Russia to "remain civilised" amid a spiralling diplomatic crisis sparked by the removal of a Soviet war memorial."It is not customary in Europe to demand the resignation of the democratically elected government of another sovereign country," he said in a statement. "It is not customary in Europe to use computers belonging to public institutions for cyber-attacks against another country's public institutions.

There are deep ethnic divisions and a cruel history at play here which is not part of this post. This post is about how governments can invade the cyberspace of a nation's peoples. But one cannot but wonder if this is not a row that is part of the NATO concern over Russian President Vladimir Putin's threat to freeze his nation's compliance with a key arms control treaty

F-secure list many Estonian government sites, that have been subject to attack and on Saturday this was the situation:

www.peaminister.ee (Website of the prime minister): unreachable
www.reform.ee (Party of the prime minister): reachable
www.agri.ee (Ministry of Agriculture): reachable
www.kul.ee (Ministry of Culture): reachable
www.mod.gov.ee (Ministry of Defence): reachable
www.mkm.ee (Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications):
unreachable
www.fin.ee (Ministry of Finance): reachable
www.sisemin.gov.ee (Ministry of Internal Affairs):
unreachable
www.just.ee (Ministry of Justice): reachable
www.sm.ee (Ministry of Social Affairs): reachable
www.envir.ee (Ministry of the Environment): reachable
www.vm.ee (Ministry of Foreign Affairs):
unreachable
www.pol.ee (Estonian Police): reachable
www.valitsus.ee (Estonian Government):
unreachable
www.riigikogu.ee (Estonian Parliament):
unreachable


If it were London, there would be a run on the pound, the Stock Market would be in free fall and reaction on behalf of the European Union to the behaviour of Russia would be as vigorous as possible.
We would hear Ken saying "This could mean suspending different talks between the European Union and Russia or not commencing them at all. The postponement of the European Union - Russia summit should be also given full consideration."

For the last few days I have been watching how this skirmish has been panning out.
The world media has been following the story with a bigger bias of Russian coverage than European

To ensure that Estonian Government statements can get to the wider world, bloggers have been spreading them, some with nervouse statements about membership of NATO and the EU. One gets the impression that some Estonians are not sure if they can count on the support of the European Union or NATO.

Blog spam has been brought to bear but not to great effect because the spam is the same content on lots of sites (I expect it will pop up here soon too).

Ross Mayfield (founder of Socialtext) has been following (fighting?) the propaganda war on Wikipedia.

There is a war of video and pictures on line too. YouTube is caught up in the propaganda war.

Twitter has been involved in distributing news and Podzinger is showing podcasts on the subject too.

The attack on Estonian sites has been effective but its interesting to see how Social Media has come into play and offered a range of perspectives.

In addition, social media is showing that shutting down web sites is no longer the threat it once was and that an online interactive conversation, even when passions is high, a range of views are available and in play allowing a wider and global population to align with the value of people they would support.

There is a lot more to come on this story.