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     Aug 16, 2008
Georgia under web fire
By Martin J Young

HUA HIN, Thailand - As tanks and shattered buildings grabbed the attention of TV crews covering the Russian offensive in Georgia, a second front in the war between the two countries received less attention - in cyberspace. Security research firms monitoring network traffic across the Internet noted anomalies in web traffic to Georgian websites and servers up to a month before the conflict broke out last week.

These cyber attacks appear on the surface to have been made by Russian hackers and activists seeking to destabilize and even bring down the Georgian Internet infrastructure.

They come in the form of coordinated data requests to the servers, overloading them and rendering any websites hosted in


Georgia inaccessible. Commonly known as distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks, they can be set up from any country or server to target any other one relatively easily. Automated software scripts are installed and act as parasites on a number of networked host computers called botnets to send repetitive data packets to the target IP address, in this case the website of the president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, among others.

Attacks have continued even after the president's website was transferred to another hosting company in the United States. The new host, Atlanta-based firm Tulip Systems, founded by Georgian-born Nino Doijashvili, has reported spurious traffic to the server outnumbering genuine traffic by as much as 5,000 to 1. The site was still unavailable at the time of writing so the ongoing cyber attack seems to be succeeding. Georgian media, telecommunications and transportation servers were also attacked.

Online grassroots communities have united and set up websites in Russian offering software available for download to initiate DDOS attacks. The Georgian government's website was hacked on Monday, with the front page replaced with images of Adolf Hitler. Georgian hackers have retaliated with their own cyber attacks on Russian websites, but as in the physical world they have been largely out-gunned and bloggers who have attempted to post photos of the advance of the Russian military machine have rapidly found their own websites under counter fire.

The Russian government has officially denied any involvement in the web warfare. By their nature, cyber attacks do offer plausible deniability as tracking down the perpetrators is virtually impossible.

Similar cyber attacks were launched last year on Estonia and Ukraine. Georgia does not have a large Internet population (its entire population numbers less than 5 million) so the damage was limited to a few government websites, however a similar attack on an Internet-dependent nation such as Israel or any of the major European nations would be far more destructive.

As nations become more dependent on the Internet the likelihood of it becoming a viable target increases. Military technology is more than capable of pinpointing and destroying buildings and strategic installations, but severe damage can also be caused on a country's economy and infrastructure if its ability to access online information is severed. Media, finance, transport, telecoms, military and government online operations can all be hit at the same time, sending the target nation spiraling into chaos.

The conflict of today is still waged with guns and bombs but the future of modern warfare will also involve cyberspace as this recent wave of attacks has shown.

Microchip giant Intel has announced the brand of its upcoming Nehalem processor this week, which will be referred to as Core i7. The new multi-core chips manufactured on 45 nanometer technology will include a performance boosting integrated memory controller hub.

CPU naming convention started to cause confusion when the clock speed numbers lost their appeal. Back in the days when a Pentium 1.2GHz processor was exactly that you knew what you were getting, these days we're faced with a mind-numbing array of numbers and code names leaving all but the most knowledgeable geeks in the dark.

Intel's current naming choice of Core 2 for its multi-core processors with the suffix Duo for second-generation chips still left consumers wondering how many gigahertz it would be equivalent to. AMD started with a smarter approach with its "equivalent speed" convention so potential users could work out that an X2 5600+ processor would be a dual core 2.8GHz equivalent or close to it. This all went pear-shaped when the company started manufacturing triple and quad core processors under the Phenom name.

Now that Intel is offering a Core i7 users are again left wondering what lies behind the name, since there is very little connection between this new naming convention and what the processor is actually capable of. Until Intel releases an explanation, users will just have to treat it as another new "brand" or processor class as we did with Atom.

The ongoing battle in graphics card technologies has heated up again this week with AMD's latest salvo. The targets are Nvidia's current flagship and industry topping cards the GTX 260 and GTX 280. AMD is back at the top of the tree with its Radeon HD 4870 X2, which packs 2.4 teraflops, or 2.4 trillion calculations per second, of processing punch and drinks 270 watts of power. Weighing in at a retail price of US$550, the dual processor card sports two gigabytes of GDDR5 memory with a bandwidth of 230GB/s. In other words it's fast, very fast.

AMD has also entered into a partnership with Blizzard Entertainment, which produces World of Warcraft, one of the most popular PC games in the world. The semiconductor company will be bundling Blizzard Entertainment titles with all ATI Radeon graphics cards it sells.

In another big day of downloads dubbed "Patch Tuesday", Microsoft has released its largest security update in 18 months to patch 26 vulnerabilities in Windows, Office and Internet Explorer. Six of the security fixes were tagged as critical and at least two of them have already been exploited in the wild.

A number of security holes in Internet Explorer versions 6 and 7 were fixed and plenty of attention was given to Microsoft's Office suite which was also filled with flaws. So if all this still hasn't put you off using IE and Office make sure your automatic updates are enabled, alternatively take a look at Firefox and Open Office.

Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.

(Copyright 2008 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


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(24 hours to 11:59pm ET, Aug 14, 2008)



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