The digital attack that brought Estonia to a standstill 10 years ago was the first shooting in a cyberwar that has been raging between Moscow and the west ever since
It began at precisely 10 pm on 26 April, 2007, when a Russian-speaking mob began rioting in the streets of Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, killing person or persons and wounding dozens of others. That incident resonates powerfully in some of the recent conflicts in the US. In 2007, the Estonian government had announced that a bronze statue of a heroic second world war Soviet soldier was to be removed from a central city square. For ethnic Estonians, the statue had less to do with the war than with the Soviet occupation that followed it, which lasted until independence in 1991. For the country's Russian-speaking minority- 25% of Estonia's 1.3 million people- the removal of the memorial was another sign of ethnic discrimination. Russia's government warned that the statue's removal would be “disastrous” for Estonia.
That evening, Jaan Priisalu- a former danger director for Estonia's largest bank, Hansabank, who was working closely with the governmental forces on its cybersecurity infrastructure- was at home in Tallinn with his girlfriend when his phone resound. On the line was Hillar Aarelaid, the chief of Estonia's cybercrime police.
“It's going down,” Aarelaid declared. Alongside the street fighting, the reporting of digital attacks were beginning to filter in. The websites of the parliament, major universities, and national newspapers were crashing. Priisalu and Aarelaid had suspected something like this could happen one day. A digital attack on Estonia had begun.
Estonia boastings the most technologically advanced system of government in the world. Every citizen possesses a digital identity- an identification number and login code for access to completely digitised interactions with the state. Estonians can vote online, filetheir taxes, check medical records, access “the member states national” health care system, and receive notifications of most government attempts to access their personal records. About 97% of the country employs digital banking. The Estonian national ethic is dependent upon the idea that every citizen is transparent and the state is too. This stimulates Estonia highly efficient- and extremely vulnerable.” We live in the future. Online banking, online news, text messages, online shopping- total digitisation has stimulated everything quicker and easier ,” Priisalu said.” But the committee is also generates the possibility that we can be thrown back centuries in a couple of seconds .”
Over the following two nights, as the street battles began to wane, the two attacks on Estonia's technological infrastructure picked up. The authorities were slow to recognise what was happening. It wasn't until 24 hours later when the national defence pastor realised he was unable to log on to the ruling party's website that they knew they had a major problem on their hands. Then the mail server that the european parliament is crashed. News sites began to falter. Some of the country's most widely read publications vanished altogether.
Priisalu began to analyse the streams of data besieging the country's organizations. Vast ” botnets”- networks of captured and linked computers- were attempting to bring down computer systems with automated queries as part of a large DDoS( distributed denial-of-service) assault. “Mail-bombing” email barrages and volleys of status and location queries overloaded servers across the country, bringing crucial parts of the Estonian internet to a halting. Some websites, in agreement with the BBC, were “defaced,” redirecting users” to images of Soviet soldiers and excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr about resisting evil “.” War dialling “, in which automated telephone call target a company or institution, placed a virtual blockade on phone number for government offices and parliament. On 10 May, Hansabank, Estonia's biggest bank, had to cease online services and international card transactions temporarily.