Websites publicising doubts about the fairness of the Russian parliamentary election last weekend have become the victim of denial of service attacks.
Popular Russian radio station Moscow Echo and election-monitoring group Golos, the website of opposition weekly New Times as well as several other sites were left inaccessible on Sunday. Moscow Echo's editor blames a concerted attempt to censor discussion about alleged electoral fraud.
"The attack on the website on election day is clearly an attempt to inhibit publication of information about violations," Moscow Echo editor-in-chief Alexei Venediktov said on Twitter, AFP reports. Golos said that its main website as well as an micro-site plotting the locations of alleged electoral violations were under "massive DDoS attacks". Information on the map of violation page is crowd-sourced.
Golos head Liliya Shibanova was detained by customs officials who confiscated her computer on Saturday, AFP adds. The news agency adds that Moscow Echo has complained to the Central Election Committee, calling for a criminal investigation of the attacks. Popular local blogging site LiveJournal (effectively the Russian blogosphere) was also hit by a wave of denial of service attacks over the last few days. Anton Nossik, the media director of LiveJournal owner SUP, suggested the hackers responsible for the attacks might be on the federal payroll, although he offered no evidence in support of this.
A more likely scenario would be that a militia of patriotic red team hackers got together, perhaps with the encouragement of the Kremlin, to launch the assaults. A contrary view comes from Eugene Kapersky, boss of Russian infosec firm Kaspersky Labs, who said his firm hasn't detected any DDoS attacks.
Pro-Kremlin youth activists also complained that their site had come under attack from opposition groups - an attack which, if genuine, failed to render the site inaccessible.
The 450 seats in the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, were contested on Sunday.
Early results suggest Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party will emerge as a victor of Sunday's polls but with a reduced majority. Putin has been outspoken in his criticism of Golos, even going so far as describing the group as a "bunch of Judases".
More commentary on the information security aspects of the alleged election day attacks can be found in a blog post by Sophos here. ®