Long before Moscow became the prime suspect in the Democratic National Committee data breach, hackers tied to the Russian government have sought to sew political discord via the internet. Most notably, many experts believe that in 2007 Russian operatives unleashed a series of devastating cyberattacks on neighboring Estonia following a dispute with Moscow over a Soviet-era war memorial. At the time, Estonia had the world’s most connected society, giving attackers plenty of targets. They succeeded in taking down government computers, banks, and newspaper sites, trying to paralyze the “e-way of life” Estonians painstakingly crafted after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. And now, as a growing number of digital attacks hit countries’ most critical systems, from hospitals to electric utilities to voting infrastructure, Estonia has become a critical voice and an important model when it comes to preparing for escalating conflict in cyberspace.
“Estonia’s drum-beating has helped increase the dialogue among other nation-states about what aggressive actions in cyberspace warrant either a political, military, or economic response, or a combination of these,” says John Bumgarner, research director at the US Cyber Consequences Unit, an independent, nonprofit research institute in Washington.
Indeed, in the years after the 2007 attacks, and with President Toomas Hendrik Ilves taking the lead, Estonia has challenged the world to pay closer attention to cyberwarfare.
“The first battle in the wars of the future will be over the control of cyberspace,” said Lani Kass, a special assistant to the US Air Force chief of staff, four months after the digital assault on Estonia. “If we don’t dominate cyberspace, we won’t be able to dominate air, space, land, or sea domains.”
Full Article: From Estonia, lessons for the Age of Cyberwar.