[ISN] Estonia to drill NATO's future cyber-war defenders

From: InfoSec News (alerts@private)
Date: Wed Apr 02 2008 - 01:21:56 PST


April 2, 2008

Almost a year after falling victim to a "cyber-war" blamed on Russian 
hackers, the Baltic state of Estonia is now piloting NATO's efforts to 
ward off future online attacks on alliance members.

After this week's NATO's summit in Romania, Estonia and seven other 
alliance partners will set up the "Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence" 
in Tallinn next month.

The United States, Germany, Italy, Spain and Estonia's fellow 
ex-communist NATO member states Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia will 
spearhead the project.

The goal, officials say, is to keep the 26-nation North Atlantic Treaty 
Organisation ahead of the game in the face of the threat of crippling 
computer assaults.

"Globally, cyber-crimes and the number of criminals involved in 
cyber-crimes is growing very fast," said Hillar Aarelaid, the head of 
Estonia's national anti-hacking task force, who was on the front line of 
the virtual battle in April and May 2007.

The centre is due to open officially in 2009, but is already starting 
work informally, said Johannes Kert, who commanded the Estonian military 
from 1996-2000.

Kert, who is now a defence ministry adviser, will be Estonia's 
representative of the centre's governing board, which is due to meet for 
the first time in June.

He told AFP that the centre's main goals include improving 
"cyber-defence interoperability" within NATO, boosting international 
cooperation and legal mechanisms for cyber-defence, as well as helping 
draw up an alliance-wide cyber-defence doctrine.

It will also provide training, assess threats and steer research 
projects, he said.

It will have a staff of 30 -- half of them IT experts -- seconded from 
and paid by the participating countries.

The choice of Estonia is no accident: besides having first-hand 
experience of a cyber-war, the country is home to a flourishing hi-tech 
industry which has earned it the nickname "E-stonia".

In late April and early May last year, a flood of attacks forced the 
temporary closure of Estonian government websites and disrupted leading 
businesses in what is one of the world's most wired economies.

While Estonia has prosecuted several young ethnic-Russian hackers based 
in the country, most of the cyber-soldiers were believed to be operating 
from Russia itself, out of reach of Estonian justice.

The attacks came after Estonian authorities decided to shift a 
Soviet-era monument from central Tallinn to a military cemetery. The 
move was marked by riots in the capital on April 26-28.

For Moscow and many among Estonia's Russian minority -- which makes up 
around a quarter of the population of 1.3 million -- moving the 
so-called Bronze Soldier was an affront to the memory of Soviet troops 
who fought the Nazis during World War II.

For many Estonians however, the statue was also a symbol of almost five 
decades of post-war Soviet occupation which ended only in 1991 as the 
communist bloc collapsed.

The site had become a flashpoint between Estonian activists and Russians 
marking Soviet-era anniversaries.

After the move, relations between Moscow and Tallinn plunged to their 
lowest ebb since Estonia regained its independence.

The Estonian government has said that even Kremlin computers were used 
to carry out a number of the attacks on servers in the Baltic country.

Moscow denied any involvement in the online assault, but Estonian 
investigators have accused Russia of hindering their probe.

"You can't bring all war criminals to trial, so it's no wonder that 
cyber-war criminals have not been brought to trial either," said 

"But the hackers also gave us something valuable -- a warning lesson 
that we learned well and are now sharing with our allies," he added.

Copyright 2008 AFP

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