Estonia has one of the most technologically advanced populations in Europe. Events in the last few months, though, have perhaps given the rest of Europe a taste of what might be the next real threat on the internet, flash mobbing.
Flash mobbing is where a group of people meet online to coordinate attacks on an organisation either by their physical presence (such as everyone turning up at one furniture shop) or online. Common attacks include sending emails to the same website at the same time or using the website for mass queries with the aim of taking the server down.
Flash mobbing has been headline news in Estonia as its government uses technology extensively, for example allowing widespread use of e-voting in the last elections. The government's servers were attacked in the summer by a flash mob thought to have had connections with neighbouring Russia.
According to a report in vnunet.com, protestors created tools designed to damage government servers, and then publicised the attack and their tools so that people could join them in the attack. Already we have seen these same techniques used to attack companies, individuals (such as the former UK TV personality Keith Chegwin) and political figures (including the former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair).
In one case in the US a customer who was allegedly subjected to abuse by a member of staff in a store mentioned the incident on a blog, which then led to a flash mob attack on the store's website. Their site crashed, its phones were jammed with calls and the fax machine was bombarded with unwanted faxes. The attacks only stopped when the head of the company called to apologise and fired the member of staff responsible.
Businesses around the world need to take flash mobbing seriously. Monitoring blogs can provide good early warning that an attack is imminent. Whilst flash mobbing is not that new, the frequency of these attacks and their severity is.