Estonia parries ‘extensive cyberattack’ launched after removal of Soviet monuments

Government CIO says assault on both public bodies and commercial firms went ‘largely unnoticed’  

Credit: Angelo Giordano/Pixabay

Often credited as the world’s foremost digital government, Estonian officials and ministers claim that the country yesterday defended itself – in large part, successfully – against the biggest cyberattack it has faced in 15 years.

Responsibility for the attack, which targeted both state institutions and private-sector companies, has been claimed by Killnet: a pro-Kremlin hacker group linked to various cyber assaults launched since the invasion of Ukraine in February. The attack took place in light of the Estonia government’s announcement this week that it will remove all Soviet monuments from public spaces.

But, although the cyber offensive was the biggest faced by the country many years, the Estonian government’s chief information officer Luukas Ilves claimed that it had had comparatively little impact.

“Yesterday, Estonia was subject to the most extensive cyberattacks it has faced since 2007,” he said on Twitter. “Attempted DDoS attacks targeted both public institutions and the private sector. The attacks were ineffective. E-Estonia is up and running. Services were not disrupted. With some brief and minor exceptions, websites remained fully available throughout the day. The attack has gone largely unnoticed in Estonia.”

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The tech chief paid tribute to the efforts of colleagues and suppliers “working to keep the lights on” before adding: “As government CIO, I slept well.”

The 2007 attack referenced by Ilves was, similarly, linked to Russian disapproval of the fate of a Soviet-era public monument: the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn war memorial, which – along with the exhumed remains of a handful of Soviet soldiers – Estonia chose to relocate to the Tallinn Military Cemetery. The move prompted violent rioting among the country’s sizeable minority of ethnic Russians.

Following the unrest, a major cyberattack – often credited as the first such assault on an entire country – caused significant disruption to government, financial infrastructure, and news outlets over a period of three weeks. 

The attacks came from computers in Russia, but the assault has never been definitively attributed to either the Russian state or any other pro-Kremlin actors.

Kaja Kallas, Estonia’s prime minister, tweeted today: “Although subject to the most extensive cyberattacks, Estonia is stronger than we were in 2007.”


Sam Trendall

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