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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Russian hackers bring battle to Atlanta's cyber-realm

Posted By on Wed, Aug 20, 2008 at 8:10 PM

Since Russia invaded neighboring Georgia two weeks ago, Atlanta's been the target of several cyberattacks from unidentified hackers who are allegedly operating out of the former Evil Empire.

“Take that, metropolitan planning organization!”

There was this barrage against Tulip Systems Inc., an Atlanta-based hosting company whose CEO, Nino Doijashvili, was born in that other Georgia. Tulip offered to host Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvili's website after it was overwhelmed by hackers traced to Moscow and St. Petersburg (that's Russia, not Florida.) According to a domain lookup, the company is still hosting the site.

Tulip Systems wasn't the only Atlanta outfit to face a cyberattack. The Atlanta Regional Commission's website was attacked on Friday, causing Google to post a warning to visitors.

"The tool the hackers are using is Asprox," says Katja Liendgens, ITS manager at the commission. "They're using Google to identify websites without certain safeguards. Through text fields [the tool] can inject malicious code in your database."

She says her team first noticed attacks around August 5, three days before Russia invaded Georgia. She says it may be impossible to verify the exact origin of the attacks — anyone can purchase a Russian domain name, she says — but that much of the malicious code injected into the system pointed back to a Russian domain.

No dancing phalli or videos of unicorns goring elves were posted on the site. Liendgens says a disrupted banner image was the only sign cybersecurity had been breached and that a visitor would most likely not have noticed the offense.

Liendgens says such attacks are becoming increasingly common throughout the world. Recent online victims include BMW's Mexico operations, the Baltimore Times and Coca-Cola Brazil. China has been attacked particularly hard because of the Olympics.

If you're wigging about this, don't fret. There's no reason to get all Wolverines right this second. Liendgens doubts the attack on the commission's website, in contrast to the one against the Georgian president's, was specifically targeted. Rather, the ne'er-do-wells simply released bots onto the Internet that look for vulnerable spots. It just so happened they landed here.

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