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Estonia Cyber Attacks 2007
2007 Estonian Cyber-war
This is the information age. In this age, the Internet has smoothened the progress of spectacular increases in global interconnectivity and communication. This form of globalization also yielded benefits for Estonia by improving the standard of living of its people. However, other than benefits, it has also ascended the availability of new weapons of confrontation for groups who have been seeking and opposing certain Estonian political measures and ideologies. The digital activists from the Russian land did the same to Estonia in May 2007 (Herzog, 2011).
More than 340,000 ethnic Russians reside in Estonia which means that the Russians comprise about 25% of the country's populace. Estonia gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, the small country has been experiencing an unsteady and shaky relationship with Moscow (Lake, 2011, p. A11). Thus, Estonia and Russia share an extensive history of conflict and contention in their two-sided relationship. Evidently, the tribulations between these ethnic populations are very old. After the annexation of the Baltic States by Soviet Union in 1940, the Soviet government relocated innumerable ethnic Russians to Estonia. It has been said that this relocation had two purposes. Firstly, the Russian authorities wanted to increase solidity in the Eastern Bloc. Secondly, it had an unyielding desire to "Russify" the culture of Estonia. However, after the conclusion of Cold War and the dissolution of the U.S.S.R., the Estonian government put such policies into operation that aimed to minimize the influences of Russians on Estonian culture (Herzog, 2011).
Cyber Attacks 2007
The Estonian government websites and banks were thwarted with a colossal cyber-attack in late April 2007. This cyber attack is also called a denial of service attack. The Estonian government announced that "the attack originated from the Kremlin and coincided with Estonia's decision to remove the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn, a Soviet-era shrine to Red Army veterans" (Lake, 2011, p. A11). Consequently, the Russian hackers got the revenge from Estonia with constant requests for information. The first response in Estonia was to suppose that the Russian state was responsible for the attacks. However according to Dr. Marsh, "it was very hard to say whether these were state-sponsored or state-condoned or really people who thought that they would act patriotically for whatever cause they were supporting at the time" (as qtd. In "Protecting Europe," 2010).
As Estonian servers were jammed with information, the cyber attacks froze the sites for the duration of this distributed denial of service (DDoS). This attack was predominantly a grave one for Estonia for the reason that the country was intensely dependent on computer networks for government and business. The Estonians were very proud and blew their horns for being a paperless government. They were proud of themselves because even the elections in the country were held electronically. Without a doubt, information technology is a principal strength of Estonia. This is the reason why Estonia was competent enough to block the origins of the responses really quickly. However, the Estonian government was not able to communicate capably and powerfully in the beginning of the events. Attacks on government websites were mixed together with non-availability of correct information and falsified postings. Despite the fact that not every person or the whole lot was under attack, the entire Internet infrastructure of Estonia became so swarmed with traffic and preoccupied with protecting itself that it basically closed down and stopped to function (Liptak, 2009). This whole scenario brought the "corporate banking, access to the media and even day-to-day personal transactions to a halt" (as qtd. In Liptak, 2009).
As discussed, it was the Russian hackers who were accused of attacking the Estonian websites in May 2007 as retaliation against Estonia for putting a Russian war memorial somewhere else. Thus, the 3-week synchronized attack turned out to be a troublesome incident for Estonia which was totally reliant on computer networks for government and business (Liptak, 2009). However, these attacks clearly showed that cyber attacks are not restricted to particular institutions, but can go forward to a level intimidating and menacing to national security. When the event is looked back, it becomes understandable that the Estonian state was not critically influenced as the state functions and critical information infrastructure resources were not broken or troubled to a large extent. Nevertheless, the other nation states were given "a wake-up call on the new threats emerging from cyber space, alongside with new types of opponents" (Czosseck, Ottis & Taliharm).
In the European continent, the country which has the highest broadband connectivity is Estonia. During the year 2007, electronic channels were used by ninety-eight percent of all bank transactions in the country and eighty-two percent of the entire tax declarations of Estonia were submitted via the Internet. An e-learning environment is used by just about every school in Estonia. In addition to this, it has become a practice in Estonian public and private sector administrations to use ID cards and digital signatures ("Protecting Europe," 2010). Similarly, when Estonia was targeted by the state-wide cyber attacks in May 2007, it was one of the most advanced and progressive nations in Europe concerning the omnipresent use of ICT in each and every facet of the society. It was and still a routine in Estonia to communicate and transmit on the Internet for carrying out a broad series of business transactions. However, it is natural that "the more a society depends on ICT, the more it becomes vulnerable to cyber attacks" (Czosseck, Ottis & Taliharm).
When the Estonian government moved the statue of a Soviet soldier that was built to commemorate the end of World War II, the Russians in Estonia protested and caused civil turbulence within Estonia. The Russian government also complained for the same ("Protecting Europe," 2010). The decision of Estonian government to relocate that Soviet memorial of the World War II from its earlier site in central Tallinn to a military burial ground generated street riots. The Estonian Ambassador in Moscow was also targeted as a result. Moreover, Russia imposed indirect economic sanctions on Estonia. The revenge did not end here and Russia initiated a campaign of politically-motivated cyber attacks against Estonia. These cyber attacks were authoritatively acknowledged as being more than just accidental illicit operations (Czosseck, Ottis & Taliharm). As far as the case of Estonia is concerned, the cyber-terrorist attacks targeted the European state by using "globally dispersed and virtually unattributable botnets of "zombie" computers" (Herzog, 2011). Many computers, even the personal computers, were hijacked by the hackers to use them in a brimming DDoS line of attack. The websites related to government and banks normally received 1,000 visits a day. After the attacks, these sites collapsed and stopped working after getting 2,000 hits a second (Herzog, 2011).
To cut a long story short, the Bronze Soldier was a symbol of Soviet cruelty and domination to ethnic Estonians. On the other hand, the Russian minorities in Estonia regarded the relocation of the statue as "further marginalization of their ethnic identity" (Herzog, 2011). Therefore, as a settle of scores, the government and private sector sites that included banking institutions and news sites of Estonia were targeted and attacked by online DDoS. These attacks kept developing for a number of weeks and fatigued the Estonian government on May 9 (The Victory Day). Countless parts of the infrastructure were hit by the attacks. Those affected included the websites of the Estonian prime minister, legislative body, nearly all ministries, political parties, and news organizations ("Protecting Europe," 2010).
The Estonian Parliament members worked for 4 entire days without sending or receiving any emails. For a limited phase, the communications networks of the government were condensed to radio. The Estonians had to strictly compromise over fiscal operations. Moreover, the ATMs became crippled. The largest bank in Estonia i.e. The Hansabank, had to force close its operations that were carried out via Internet. At the same time as the attacks were at their pinnacle, the majority of Estonian people found themselves expelled from completing any financial transactions successfully. As a consequence, the Estonian government decided to respond to the attacks by closing huge parts of its system of networks to people residing in other countries. Thus, the Estonians who were living outside Estonia became incapable to use their bank accounts ("Protecting Europe," 2010).
Dr Jose Nazario of Arbor Networks explained that the cyber attacks on Estonia were not large for the most part. However, their effectiveness was due to the reason that Estonia was short of an Information Technology security apparatus of comparable degree (despite the fact that it is one of the most wired countries on the blue planet) ("Protecting Europe," 2010).
Cyber-Attacking -- The Culprits
The methods used by the attackers in this event of cyber attacking Estonia were not really original or innovative. On the other hand, these attacks caused a momentous hazard for Estonia considering its small topography and elevated dependence on information systems. Estonia considered the attacks as cyber crimes by an individual instead of regarding…[continue]
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