Russian 'cyber militia' knocks Kyrgyzstan offline

A Russian "cyber militia" has knocked the central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan off the Internet, a security researcher said Wednesday, demonstrating that the hackers are able to respond even faster than last year, when they waged a digital war against another former Soviet republic, Georgia.

Since Jan. 18, the two biggest Internet service providers (ISPs) in Kyrgyzstan have been under a "massive, sustained distributed denial-of-service attack," said , the director of threat intelligence for

The attacks, which are ongoing, have knocked most of the country offline and disrupted e-mail to and from a U.S. air base there, Jackson said. The public affairs officer at Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan was not immediately available to answer questions about whether the attacks have disrupted operations or other activities.

According to Jackson, the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks -- essentially a flood of requests that overwhelm servers and effectively knock them off the Internet -- can be traced to the same groups of Russian and ethnic Russian hackers who assembled in militia-like fashion last August to .

"The traffic we've collected has all the hallmarks of the tools that were used in the Georgia attacks," said Jackson. "And they're from the same network [of IP addresses] that we associated with the cyber militia last year." Researchers have also found two groups, led by "two specific players," in common with the 2008 attacks against Georgia, he added.

Speculation about why Kyrgyzstan's Internet infrastructure was attacked center around an investment deal that Russia is negotiating the country. Russia has indicated that it wants Kyrgyzstan to oust foreign air forces, including the U.S.', before it will agree to loan the country US$300 million and invest another $1.7 billion in its energy industry.

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