Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Armenian Hackers Strike Back
The authorities in Baku are to protect Azeri web sites from Armenian hackers following an escalation in the regional cyber war.
Azerbaijan's National Security Minister, Namik Abbasov, announced on February 14 that a technical council would be created to deal with Internet security after Armenian hackers sabotaged scores of Azeri sites.
The attack was retaliation for an earlier Azeri raid on Armenian sites accused of spreading lies about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Among the 100 or so victims of the revenge attack was the Baku newspaper, Zerkalo (Mirror), which had ironically been strongly critical of the Azeri hackers.
The Armenian saboteurs posted disinformation on the Zerkalo site, claiming, for example, that the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan had agreed to a land swap to help settle the Karabakh conflict and that Turkey was about to open its border with Yerevan.
"The war between the Armenia and Azerbaijan over Karabakh has moved on to the Internet now the frontline is quiet, " said Zerkalo's deputy editor Nair Aliev.
The Armenian hackers warned the raid was only the first phase of their retaliation for the Azeri sabotage last month, which targeted several dozen sites, including that of Armenian State Television.
Visitors to the hijacked sites were greeted by a blank page, which forwarded them to the hackers' site, where they were regaled with a litany of anti-Armenian abuse as well as offensive messages from other callers.
The opening shots in the cyber war were condemned by the press in both Azerbaijan and Armenia. Zerkalo accused the hackers of trying to curry favour with the Baku authorities, while the Yerevan paper, Golos Armenii (Voice of Armenia), branded them hooligans.
There's growing concern the escalation in the cyber war could increase tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Azerbaijan is certainly taking the problem very seriously. In addition to providing protection for Internet sites, Namik Abassov said the National Security Ministry would raise its concerns at an international level.
Shahin Rzaev is Project Editor for IWPR in Baku.
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