Russian media, election watchdog silenced through cyberattacks

Websites of the Ekho Moskvy (Moscow Echo) radio station, the news portal Slon.ru, and election monitor Golos were taken down by cyberattacks during the height of the elections, Euronews reported.

The media outlets and election watchdog have been critical of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party, accusing the party of ballot tampering and other electoral law violations.

It appears that the websites were taken down by massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which the victims believe were coordinated by the central government.

“There is the feeling that the Central Election Commission, the prosecutors, and the hackers are acting together”, Maxim Kashulinsky, general director of Slon.ru, was quoted by Euronews as saying.

DDoS attacks have become an increasingly popular method to conduct political and ideological attacks, noted Mike Paquette, chief strategy officer with DDoS defense firm Corero Network Security.

“The activity described in recent stories about massive DDoS attacks against independent news sites covering the Russian elections supports Corero Network Security’s previous observations and projections that true political activism is a strong and real motivator for internet DDoS attack activity”, Paquette commented.

“Recent events place DDoS at the heart of electoral politics, with claims being made that high-level officials, in attempts to sway election results, used DDoS attacks as a mechanism of propaganda, censorship, information withholding, and unfair political advantage”, he added.

At the same time, Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant with Sophos, observed that “even if the DDoS attacks were politically motivated, investigators will have a devil of a time proving that they were backed by a political party rather than the work of a lone wolf supporter who took matters into his own hands.”
 

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