A distributed denial-of-service attack on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty this week is the latest attack in a resurgence of hacktivism (hacking + activism) in the Internet underground, a security researcher says.
The attack knocked out or interrupted eight RFL/RL sites, starting with Belarus and including Kosovo, Russia, and Azerbaijan, according to the news agency's Web site.
At one point the Web sites were getting up to 50,000 fake hits per second from other machines. The attack started on April 26, the 22nd anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident and RFE/RL was going to be covering demonstrators protesting over lack of compensation for victims and the government's plan to build a new nuclear power station.
Several weeks ago CNN's site was a target of hackers believed to be based in China, sites in France have been targeted, and a year ago Estonian sites were attacked, notes Paul Ferguson, an advanced threat researcher at Trend Micro who wrote about the trend this week.
"These things are generally grass-roots driven, either regional, cultural or national," and unlike most cybercrime attacks, they are not motivated by financial gain, he told CNET News.com.
Because the attacks are designed to limit the flow of information, they have more of a societal impact than other cyberattacks, Ferguson says. "I anticipate we'll see more of these over the summer, driven by geo-political issues" like Tibetan protests during the Olympics being hosted in China, he predicts.
Hactivism, or hacking for political purposes, isn't new; it dates back at least to 1989. There was a rash of events around the turn of the century, including some organized by artists and environmental activists newly empowered with Internet tools.