TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Estonia Experts Builf Defenses After Cyber Attacks

Estonia Experts Builf Defenses After Cyber Attacks

David Mardiste, Reuters News (
Fri, 18 May 2007 20:45:07 -0500

Estonia experts build defenses after cyber attacks
By David Mardiste

TALLINN (Reuters) - Estonian officials reeling from three weeks of
cyber attacks on government and private Internet sites are looking at
ways to shore up the Baltic state's infrastructure against future

The attacks hit sites across the country, from newspapers to schools
to the defense ministry, and appear to have stemmed initially from
Russia, though the Kremlin has denied waging a "cyber-war" against
Estonia's infrastructure.

The April 27 start of the onslaught coincided with fierce rioting by
members of Estonia's Russian minority, sparked by Tallinn's plans to
move a Soviet-era statue from the city centre to a military cemetery.

The decision enraged Moscow, which threatened sanctions.

"We should look at the timing of the attacks on our embassy, the
non-official sanctions and the cyber attacks against Estonian
government Web sites and it is clear that it is not a coincidence,"
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet told reporters after meeting Baltic
counterparts in Latvia on Friday.

Estonian police have charged only one person, a 19-year-old Tallinn
man, with encouraging the attacks in Internet forums.

New measures on the table for the Internet-dependent country -- which
pioneered online voting earlier this year -- include creating a
working group to look at current efforts and drawing on ideas from
Estonia's allies in NATO and the European Union.

A NATO investigator visited Estonia this week.

"This was the first time a NATO member was attacked in this way on
such a large scale," Paet said. "NATO can learn from this experience
and be better prepared against future attacks."

Estonia also raised the attacks at an EU defense ministers' meeting
this week.


The cyber attack became so severe in early May that Estonia's recently
formed Computer Emergency Response Team had to resort to blocking
foreign access to Estonian servers.

Network specialists said the attacks consisted of a barrage of clicks
on a given website, leading to overload. Some sites faced up to 1,000
clicks a second, compared with a normal level of 1,000 to 1,500 clicks
a day.

"Thousands of sites in Estonia were affected," Estonia State
Informatics Centre communications manager Rica Semjonova said.

"We are planning to make plans, but the people that would do this have
been working non-stop for the last three weeks and they are only
thinking of a rest right now," she said.

The attacks peaked on May 8 and 9 -- during events in Russia and the
Baltics marking the anniversary of the World War Two victory over the

They tailed off this week, but Semjonova said it was clear
professional hackers were still probing for network weaknesses.

Government officials and commentators said the attacks were coordinated,
though many Estonians were reluctant to point the figure directly at

"I can say that the attacks coincided with the bronze soldier saga,"
said defense Ministry spokesman Madis Mikko.

"During this time, instructions on how to attack and what sites to
attack were posted in the Russian language on the Internet," he added.

Still, Mikko said it was impossible to say for sure that the attacks
came from Russia because hackers can hijack computer addresses to hide
their origin.

What shook experts was the sophistication of the methods.

"They used very different modern techniques we have not seen before,"
said information technology lecturer and government adviser Linnar

The cost of the attack is not yet clear.

"Even Internet service providers do not know how to price it. But key
services such as for banks were down for only a short time," Semjonova

Estonia has a population of just 1.3 million but nearly 800,000
Estonians use internet banking.

Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.

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