Russian Hackers Attack Live Streaming Video Sites

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Hackers shut down a United States online video company on Wednesday that was being used by Russian activists to stream live video of protests in Moscow, prompting the company’s leaders to launch a Russian-language version of the site.

Brad Hunstable, chief executive and co-founder of the company uStream, said that the online platform was down for nine hours. He said it was the third highly coordinated attack from Russia in six months. He noted that each attack took place at the same time Russian activists were using the platform to stream live video of protests in Moscow and other cities.

He said the attack began on Wednesday at 5:30 a.m. Eastern time, targeting a channel operated by a Russian citizen journalist filming the protests. Known as a distributed denial of service attack, or DDoS, it involved thousands of IP addresses coming primarily from Russia, Kazakhstan and Iran that flooded the site, Mr. Hunstable said, crippling the company’s data centers all over the world.

“The scale of this thing was absolutely incredible,” said Mr. Hunstable, who started the company in 2007 with a fellow West Point graduate to help troops stationed overseas to communicate more easily with family members. “It was the most complex cyberattack that we have ever seen. This is much more than one cyberattack and one protest. This is fundamental to preserving freedom of speech and assembly on the Internet.”

Mr. Hunstable said to help make sure that more people in Russia could use uStream once service was restored, his team translated into Russian instructions and other information about the site and launched it on Wednesday as soon as service was restored. They also put Russia on the site’s homepage.

 

The target of the attack was a uStream channel called reggamortis1 and started by Kirill Mikhailov, 23, who only recently began streaming live video from the protests. He said in an interview that he was looking to give people inside and outside of Russia a view of the protests that they might not see on official Russian television networks.

When he realized that he could not stream video live on uStream from the protests Wednesday he said he turned to his Twitter account, @reggaemortis1, to share images from the protests, and to YouTube, where he posted several short videos. He also tried to use Bambuser, a popular mobile video streaming tool, but it was also under attack by hackers.

“Twitter was up the whole time,” Mr. Mikhailov said. “But it was not the same thing. It is not enough to get the information to people. The live video gives the vibe of the protests and people get to see them live all over the world.”

He said he suspected he was targeted because he had been providing live coverage of the protests from the front lines in recent days, including showing protesters clashing with the police. As my colleagues Andrew E. Kramer and Michael Schwirtz report, protesters used flash mobs and other tactics to avoid arrest.

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