Virtual country 'nuked' in cyberwar

Hackers bring down East Timor domain; Indonesian government blamed.
Written by MSNBC staff, Contributor

The Indonesian government is being blamed for a cyber-attack on computers in Ireland that brought down the East Timor virtual country domain, according to a report by the BBC.

East Timor, currently occupied by Indonesia, declared its virtual independence one year ago with the creation of its own top-level domain, .tp, which is actually served from an Irish Internet service provider. Hackers brought the ISP to its knees earlier this week, forcing a shutdown of the East Timor domain.

Hacking ring blamed
As of Wednesday evening, the main information site for East Timor, www.freedom.tp, was still down. Only the home page of the Irish ISP that hosts the domain, http://www.connect.ie/, was accessible -- and it contained some direct accusations.

"Yesterday the hacking ring, fondly referred to as E-Nazis, finally succeeded, forcing Connect-Ireland's staff to physically pull the plug on their servers for twenty-four hours," said a message on that page.

It directly laid blame for the hack to the Indonesian government. "The perpetrators of this attack have not yet been identified, but the Indonesian government is known to be extremely antagonistic towards this display of virtual sovereignty," it said.

18 simultaneous attacks
The East Timor domain project was initiated by Connect-Ireland and 1996 Nobel Prize winners Ramos Horta and Bishop Belo. It went live one year ago, a political statement of independence, since top-level domains are generally given only to established nations.

Connect-Ireland's project director, Martin Maguire, told BBC News Online that crackers had been testing the servers' defenses for the past nine months before launching simultaneous attacks from countries as far apart as Australia, Japan, Holland and the United States.

"There were 18 simultaneous attacks on our server by robots trying to claw down our defenses," said Martin. Once they had broken in, Maguire said, crackers set up their own domain, need.tp, with the possible aim of using it for propaganda on East Timor.

Connect-Ireland responded by turning off all its servers, then changing all its hardware and software, what it called the "Nuclear Option."

"It's going to be the new style of war. You can see these tactics becoming part of official government policy and a potential weapon," Maguire said.

Formal protest launched
Connect-Ireland says it is lodging a formal protest with the Indonesian Embassy in London.

Indonesia invaded East Timor on Dec. 7, 1975, and unilaterally annexed it as the nation's 27th province one year later.

Numerous U.N. resolutions, including one co-sponsored by Ireland last April, have condemned Indonesia's occupation.

When the East Timor domain was first launched, a spokesman for the Indonesian embassy told the Irish Times that while Indonesia fully respected the freedom of cyberspace, it was "concerned that this freedom has been misused by Connect-Ireland to spread a campaign against Indonesia.... The handover of the domain to the government of East Timor is beyond imagination since the government of East Timor will not exist."

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