Russia: A Hacking War?

Mar 2, 2012 by

Russia: A Hacking War?

The eager and possibly somewhat surprised eye of the world as been turned on Russia during the last two and a half months especially, as protests continue to unfold regarding the upcoming presidential elections. And particularly former president’s and current prime minister’s Vladimir Putin’s decision to run for president again in the March 2012 elections.

The Deutsche Welle, Germany’s leading international broadcaster, reported on its website about recent events happening in Russia due to the upcoming elections under the headline “Russia’s Cyber War Heats Up”. According to the article, this “war” is taking place foremost between rival political groups. Hackers from both sides of the Russian political camp – pro-Kremlin and against – are fighting against each other. By doing what? Why, hacking each other, of course.

Hackers from an international group called Anonymous have accused the pro-Putin youth group Nashi of being responsible for massive hacking attacks that took place in Russia four years ago. Anonymous subsequently hacked email accounts of Nashi representatives. The contents of their emails were then put online.

The Deutsche Welle article notes the increasing and important role the internet has played in Russian politics in general. But not only that – it has also played a major role in the public perception of them and shaping reactions. Blogging has been a major factor in covering recent political events, as well as mobilizing thousands of people to demonstrate in Moscow and other large Russian cities last year against Putin taking part in the elections. And if even hackers are warring with each other, well…The trend seems to be enveloping the country on all levels. Indeed, recent statistics about the internet confirm the general role of the Web in our lives is only becoming more and more important.

The article further reports that just a few days ago Anonymous hacked the website of Putin’s own party, United Russia. Opposition party websites had been attacked in the past as well. Websites of critical media were reportedly hacked during Russia’s parliamentary elections in December 2011. Local editors and journalists voiced concerns about the legitimacy of elections in Russia, if such extreme measures were already being taken to clearly prevent the media from reporting on them, thus also jeopardizing the freedom of the press.

Generally hacking attacks on pro-Kremlin websites provokes a positive reaction, which is understandable. The Deutsche Welle article states that Anonymous plans carry out more hacking attacks.

CNN reported about Mikhail Prokhorov, a billionaire and New Jersey Nets owner, as running against Vladimir Putin. But isn’t the third-richest man in Russia just as questionable as Mr. Putin? Just how did he become a billionaire? The upcoming elections could easily turn in to an opportunity for extremely wealthy men to use the public mood against Putin as a means of propelling themselves, or subsequently those they are interested in, on to the political arena to further their own goals, rather than those of the country.

Clearly there is a lot going on in Russia at the moment. The mood of not wanting Putin to win is strong. The internet has proven to be able to ignite and propel revolutions in the past in other countries, to make them visible to the world. Whether or not it will come to that level in the largest country in the world remains to be seen, but it is certainly interesting to continue to observe what will be going on.

Image note: EdStock/ istockphoto

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