Real-Time OSINT vs Historical OSINT in Russia/Georgia Cyberattacks

The original real-time OSINT analysis of the Russian cyberattacks against Georgia conducted on the 11th of August, not only closed the Russia vs Georgia cyberwar case for me personally, but also, once again proved that real-time OSINT is invaluable compared to historical OSINT using a commercial social network visualization/data mining tool which cannot and will never be able to access the Dark Web, accessible only through real-time CYBERINT practices.

The value of real-time OSINT in such people’s information warfare cyberattacks — with Chinese hacktivists perfectly aware of the meaning of the phrase — relies on the relatively lower operational security (OPSEC) the initiators of a particular campaign apply at the beginning, so that it would scale faster and attract more participants. What the Russian government was doing is fueling the (cyber) fire – literally, since all it takes for a collectivist socienty’s cyber militia to organize, is a “call for action” which was taking place at the majority of forums, with the posters of these messages apparently using a spamming application to achieve better efficiency.

The results from 56 days of Project Grey Goose in action got published last week, a project I discussed back in August, point out to the bottom of the food chain in the entire campaign – :

Furthermore, coming up with Social Network analysis of the cyberattacks would produce nothing more but a few fancy graphs of over enthusiastic Russian netizen’s distributing the static list of the targets. The real conversations, as always, are happening in the “Dark Web” limiting the possibilities for open source intelligence using a data mining software. Things changed, OPSEC is slowly emerging as a concept among malicious parties, whenever some of the “calls for action” in the DDoS attacks were posted at mainstream forums, they were immediately removed so that they don’t show up in such academic initiatives

So what’s the bottom line? Nothing that I haven’t already pointed out back in August : “Report: Russian Hacker Forums Fueled Georgia Cyber Attacks” :

But experts say evidence suggests that Russian officials did little to discourage the online assault, which was coordinated through a Russian online forum that appeared to have been prepped with target lists and details about Georgian Web site vulnerabilities well before the two countries engaged in a brief but deadly ground, sea and air war.”

Some more comments :

Just because there was no smoking gun doesn’t mean there’s no connection,” said Jeff Carr, the principal investigator of Project Grey Goose, a group of around 15 computer security, technology and intelligence experts that investigated the August attacks against Georgia. “I can’t imagine that this came together sporadically,” he said. “I don’t think that a disorganized group can coalesce in 24 hours with its own processes in place. That just doesn’t make sense.

It wouldn’t make sense if this was the first time Russian hacktivists are maintaining the same rhythm as real-life events – which of course isn’t.

Moreover, exactly what would have constituted a “smoking gun” proving that the Russian government was involved in the campaign, remains unknown — I’m still sticking to my comment regarding the web site defacement creative. If they truly wanted to compromise themselves, they would have cut Georgia off the Internet, at least from the perspective offered by this graph courtesy of the Packet Clearing House speaking for their dependability on Russian ISPs.

As for the script kiddies at, they were informed enough to feature my research into their “negative public comments section”. To sum up – the “DoS battle stations operational in the name of the “Please, input your cause” mentality is always going to be there.

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