IT seemed innocuous enough. The grim bronze statue of a Soviet soldier in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, an already uncomfortable presence at the centre of a city no longer under Soviet 'occupation', was relocated last April to the tranquil setting of a war cemetery. The remains of Soviet soldiers buried beneath followed. An already beleaguered Russian minority, incensed and disenfranchised (many remain stateless within Estonia), protested. Their version of history is somewhat different from the authorities in Tallinn: the supreme sacrifice made during the 'Great Patriotic War'--the Russian term for the Second World War--had to be honoured. The statue had become the rallying point for anti-government protesters, a talismanic presence for the Russian protestors. Riots broke out. One fatality was reported.
Then, with its ever heavy-handedness in the region, the Kremlin stepped in, expressing displeasure at this 'violation' of Russian rights. On inspecting the relocation of the statute, a member of a delegation of Russian deputies, Leonid Slutsky, would comment that 'the statute is not broken. It was transported carefully and placed well in this military cemetery'. This did not stem the Russian anger, sensitive as they have been to alleged human rights violations against the minority. For Anatoliy Yegorov, board chairman of the rather longwinded Union of Estonian Associations of Russian Compatriots, the moves against the statute and pro-Russian protesters signified a 'squeezing-out of the Russian-speaking population'.
The next stage of Russian anger was even more ominous. There were no retaliatory measures of a strictly military nature--in a different era, Russian-led forces might have easily quelled such acts of 'blasphemy' from nations within its orbit. Instead, economic measures were discussed and implemented (the severing of passenger services between Tallinn and St. Petersburg amongst them). Estonian sites have been physically attacked. The Estonian embassy in Moscow received an unhealthy degree of attention from a Russian youth-group, as did its ambassador. It ended after a deal brokered by Germany which saw the ambassador abruptly leave, ostensibly for a 'holiday'.
But the most peculiar of responses came in the form of electronic warfare. Its goal, as one text on the subject reads, 'is to control the electromagnetic spectrum'.  While electronic warfare is hardly new, its connection with computer security in this specific context has never received so much attention. This is not entirely surprising in the Estonian case. Estonia has become a marvel of e-government, where online procedures dominate. Its journeys into the 'electromagnetic spectrum' have been nothing short of spectacular. In November 2005, the aptly named Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications announced its 'information security policy'. Measures included e-security cooperation and coordination. Such improvements were bound to excite the attention of those information technology rebels keen to test their worth. This is exactly what happened.
On April 27, a cyber attack on the websites of Estonia's government ministries, political organisations, newspapers, banks and companies commenced. The Economist titled it a 'cyber-riot'--protesters had taken their grievances to the World-Wide Web, launching an offensive that crashed sites with excessive 'bogus requests'.  The websites of the Justice and Foreign ministries were rendered inaccessible. The attacks also took other forms. Internet chat on forums was heavy with instructions on how to overwhelm Estonian government websites with traffic. Websites were literally defaced. Russian propaganda made an appearance, a form of cyber-scrawl and graffiti. Prime Minister Andrus Ansip found, much to his surprise, a Hitler moustache drawn on a photo placed on his party's website. In computer language, we had witnessed a wave of Distributed Denial of Service attacks (DDoS) and Botnets (computers hacked from remote sites and literally controlled to unwittingly deliver spam and viruses to any location in the globe).
These developments have broader implications. NATO, though initially ruffled by the cyber assault on Estonia, immediately sent 'cyber-terrorism' experts to Tallinn to improve its electronic defences.  Linton Wells, a top official at the Pentagon, called it a possible 'watershed in terms of widespread awareness of the vulnerability of modern society' (International Herald Tribune, May 28). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Estonian Minister of defence, Jaak Aaviksoo, described the attacks as 'organised' and directed at 'basic modern infrastructures' (Washington Post, May 19). What was a speculative, theoretical branch of technology is rapidly becoming a distinct department, a field of operations essential to operational success on the battlefield. Linnar Viik, a consultant to the Estonian government, did not see the attacks of the electronic dimension as any different from those of physical attack. 'This is not some virtual world. This is part of our independence. And these attacks were an attempt to take one country back to the cave, back to the Stone Age'. 
George Orwell theorised in an essay on the atomic bomb in 1945 that 'the history of civilisation is largely the history of weapons'. Where weapons are expensive, despotism is rampant. When they are democratically available, 'the common people have a chance'. It is perhaps no accident that Orwell continued to point out the connections between the flintlock and popular insurrections. Technology, however, has its drawbacks. The radio and plane, seemingly democratic instruments, sealed borders and insulated nations. They proved the handmaidens to totalitarian states. What the World-Wide Web does and can do remains to be seen--the recent incident only reveals the dangers and perhaps the promises open to those willing to challenge a state's policy.
When one realises that a botnet, while it may involve a million computers, need only be operated by one or more individuals, this Orwellian transfer of power to the 'common' people may indeed be possible. There need only be one individual in command at any one time. And, as the precis by White Wolf Security with expertise in information security suggests, the attacker is 'always fluid, flexible and dynamic'. The defender remains static, in that its servers--in this case, the Estonian, will always be fixed in cyberspace even if they acquire new IP addresses. 
The Russians may have simply confirmed what other defence departments have been concerned about now for some years. As the report by the agency White Wolf Security argues, nothing is particularly novel about this attack. Veterans of the information security and assurance business would consider denial of service attacks old fare. The growing interest in such technologies has been lurking for some time. Cyber civil disobedience started becoming a phenomenon in the late 1990s. Attention was drawn to various political causes using specific electronic means.
The United States has, unsurprisingly, been at the forefront of this development, suggesting that American planners 'be prepared to integrate US and allied or coalition EW [Electronic Warfare] capabilities into an overall EW plan', providing information about US capabilities in EW warfare and support to allies.  The Pentagon decided to run a test in 1997 with a team of computer experts, simulating a 'North Korean' attempt to penetrate US military computer sites in an exercise called 'Eligible Receiver'. On March 1, 2000, Major General Thomas E. Goslin enlightened a subcommittee of the Senate Armed Forces Committee on the essentials of electronic warfare to the American military. The next day, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee questioned its respondents with the agenda, 'Cyber Attack: Is the Government Safe?' He was not the only one, being joined by experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the academics to bolster interest.
The early stages of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq catapulted the relevance of electronic warfare onto centre stage. A selected bibliography on the various sources in the US Army War College Library places the themes of 'network-centric and information warfare' at the forefront. Warfare in the 21st Century (2003) provides a range of sources that demonstrate the urgency and seriousness with which policy makers, especially within the United States, should take such challenges.
It has been found, as the US Army Military News website noted, that 'a highly trained and qualified Electronic Warfare personnel within the Army' was needed. The emergence of new non-state actors (terrorist organisations prominent amongst them), pricked the security consciousness of the United States and its allies. Indeed, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Walter L. Sharp suggested a doctrine on the conduct of electronic warfare in January 2007. He called electronic warfare 'one of the five core capabilities' with military operations 'executed in an information environment increasingly complicated by the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum'. 
Other governments, in light of the measures undertaken against Estonia, have also responded with an enlivened interest in electronic warfare. The announcement by the Chinese government in May that its military would establish units to create viruses to disseminate amongst enemy computer networks may not have been a coincidence. While a report by the US Department of Defense to Congress documented frustration with a lack of transparency in the nature of Chinese military developments, one feature was clear: the increased interest in electronic warfare. 'Electromagnetic dominance' is the leitmotif, using a combination of viruses, electronic decoys and false target generators. The anger expressed by the Chinese, attacking the report for, in the words of Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu, spreading the 'myth of the "China Threat"', did little to detract from the increased interest.  EW had well and truly arrived, and an ecstatic post on the forum of the International Herald Tribune trumpeted the arrival of 'psychotronic' war.
What recourse is there to the victim of such an attack? International law remains silent, caught off guard in the face of such technological onslaughts. International aggression, for one, remains a state-centred concept, despite the challenges mounted by the terrorist fascination of GWOT (oddly capitalised by the Pentagon as the Global War on Terror). 'Aggression', reads one UN General Assembly resolution, 'is the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations, as set out in this Definition'.  In the game of cyber crime, those suffering under what might be withering attacks are not officially permitted to attack.
Then there is the issue of whom to target. Denials from the Kremlin have been frequent, though they seem implausible at first blush. IP addresses behind the attacks suggested that the computers used were from Russian locations, though this in itself says nothing. Andrei Sosov, an employee of an agency responsible for Russian information technology, claims that the IP addresses were simply cloned. 'Our names and contact numbers are open sources. I am just saying that professional hackers could easily have used our IP addresses to spoil relations between Estonia and Russia' (Washington Post, May 19). Russian officials simply denied the charges, proceeding to charge the EU for its 'double-standards' regarding human rights and the matter of the Russian minority. The Estonians, treading carefully, have denied attributing any direct responsibility.
Imputing such charges to government minions may miss the point, especially when such weapons of protest are now so readily available to the public. Hacking becomes the weapon of the 'weak', the modern flintlock. The individual hacker, by virtue of this, presents a security problem of considerable magnitude. Such cyber activists become modern 'nomads', soldiers of the revolutionary chic 'temporary autonomous zone', a term coined by the American anarchist Peter Lamborn Wilson, who tends to pen his articles under the pseudonym Hakim Bey. They forage and gnaw around the base of state power, nibbling away at its foundations within a blissfully anarchic zone, contemptuous of authority and institutions. It is hardly surprising that such computer behaviour patterns neatly on Bey's anarchical universe, a dimension which exults in 'poetic terrorism', the journey into a world where poems are 'scrawled in courthouse lavatories'. The cyber frontier may be one of those few areas that may be left to the activist to challenge the very nature of state power, ridiculing it, mocking it. It is also economical. As a computer expert quipped, 'Running a botnet and firing off an ICMP DDoS isn't difficult to pull off compared to say, poisoning a critic with Polonium 210'. 
The severity that governments seek to punish cyber-criminals reflects their nervousness at the weapons available to the computer literate. The US Department of Defense made it clear in a declassified report that the net was tantamount to a weapons system. As was pointed out when the report was released, the slogan 'fight the net' appears with belligerent intensity through the document.  Washington sought the extradition of a British individual, Gary McKinnon, who must have had the distinct feeling of being placed in the same category as an al-Qaeda operative. McKinnon had been accused of hacking into no less than 97 computers of the US government between February 2001 and March 2002. A terrified US government was disturbed by conduct 'calculated to influence and affect the US government by intimidation and coercion' (BBC World News, July 27, 2005).
The responses by the Estonian government have, as the Economist has rightly pointed out, potentially more damaging effects than any Russian sanction. By limiting access to websites from abroad, the small country narrows its options. On the other hand, the Russians are also living dangerously with their sanctions, punishing their business prospects with a rapidly modernising economy within the EU.
Various counter-measures are now on the table, doubtless at the forefront of specialists at NATO. Strong networks of servers across countries might be a solution. A cynic might clamour for the return of the phone, fax or carrier-pigeon. But curtailing the freedom to hack and disrupt government services may not on its own accord be the best approach. Paradoxically, these same sullen hackers, whatever their persuasion, may be guardians of the electromagnetic spectrum. They might prevent the ominous realisation of the Pentagon's report on electronic warfare, which demands the control by US forces of 'the entire electromagnetic spectrum'.
The fall-out in cyberspace Talinn has borne is unlikely to deter former Eastern Bloc countries keen to shake off the Soviet legacy. The Estonian move against the statue may have a domino effect across countries within the former Soviet orbit. The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in Poland is busy with a programme of removal, effacing or relocating Sovietera 'monuments' (Kommersant, May 1). The Katyn Committee, a body comprising the relatives of Polish officers killed by Soviet forces in 1940, endorsed the Estonian line with passion. Had not Estonia, members argued, 'suffered from the Soviet occupation, while Soviet monuments have always been the symbol of slavery and lies, as well as Russian chauvinism'? With the language of the 'Cold War' making an unwelcome reappearance--Russia is now insisting on pointing nuclear weapons against European targets--the merits (and demerits) of cyberwar may again take a backseat.
 Ross Anderson, Security Engineering: A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems (New York: Wiley, 2001), 322.
 Economist, 'A cyber-riot', May 10, 2007.
 Ian Traynor, 'Russia accused of unleashing cyberwar to disable Estonia', Guardian, May 17, 2007.
 Quoted in Peter Finn, 'Cyber Assaults on Estonia Typify a New Battle Tactic', Washington Post, May 19, 2007, A1.
 White Wolf Security, 'Estonia and Cyberwar--Lessons Learned and Preparing for the Future', June 4, 2007, available at
 US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Electronic Warfare, 25 January 2007, Joint Publication 3-13.1, at ix, available at http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/dod/jp3-13-1.pdf.
 US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Electronic Warfare, 25 January 2007, Joint Publication 3-13.1, at v, available at http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/dod/jp3-13-1.pdf.
 References from Annual Report to Congress, Military Power of the People's Republic of China 2007 (US Department of Defense, May 2007); 'Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu's Remakrs on the US DoD Report on Chinese Military Power', Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, Release on May 28, 2007, at
 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3314 (XXIX), Article 1.
 John Bambenek, 'Estonia, Botnets, and Economic Warfare', May 21, 2007, SANS Institute, http://isc.sans.org/diary.html?storyid=2820&rss, accessed May 27, 2007.
 Adam Brookes, 'US Plans to "fight the net" revealed', BBC News, January 27, 2006, available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4655196.stm, accessed May 27, 2007.
Binoy Kampmark is a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.…