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Recruiting Soldiers for the Cyberwar

russiarecruitment081408.jpgReports of the parallel cyberwar being conducted against Georgia alongside the military onslaught is not news. We saw indications that organized groups of hackers using DOS (denial of service) attacks – which have previously been linked to the Russian government in the Estonia case – weeks before the invasion began, blocking the ability of the Georgian government to publish to their own websites. But what strikes me as interesting about the cyberwar is how self-defeating and damaging it is to the Russian position. If Moscow feels confident and legitimate in its military actions in Georgia, then why would it be necessary to engage in criminal activities to attack their counterpart? It in fact makes it more difficult for one to sympathize with the invasion and the greivances when it is cloaked in such unsavory sideshows. But perhaps I am too quick to jump to the conclusion that the Kremlin can actually control how and when the hackers leap into attack mode – even if the nationalism that motivates them is stirred up by the state’s (un)civil society mechanisms. Apparently just about anybody can do this without even being an expert.

Today over at Slate.com there’s an interesting piece by Evgeny Morozov titled “How I became a soldier in the Georgia-Russia cyberwar.” Morozov writes “Paranoid that the Kremlin’s hand is everywhere, we risk underestimating the great patriotic rage of many ordinary Russians, who, having been fed too much government propaganda in the last few days, are convinced that they need to crash Georgian Web sites. Many Russians undoubtedly went online to learn how to make mischief, as I did. Within an hour, they, too, could become cyberwarriors.“However, at the end of the day, it is the reckless wielding of virulent nationalism is Russia’s public policy that has unleashed these kinds of volunteer soldiers … and I think that Moscow should fear the day when this crowd-power turns on them.