Estonia develops volunteer cyber defense force and considers drafting techies


From Tom Gjelten, National Public Radio:  In April 2007, the Baltic republic of Estonia became the first country in the world to experience cyberwar. Government, financial and media computer networks were paralyzed by a series of attacks, which authorities ultimately concluded originated in Russia.

In the years since that cyberassault, Estonia has distinguished itself once again: Now it is a model for how a country might defend itself during a cyberwar. The responsibility would fall to a force of programmers, computer scientists and software engineers who make up a Cyber Defense League, a volunteer organization that in wartime would function under a unified military command.

"[Our] league brings together specialists in cyberdefense who work in the private sector as well as in different government agencies," Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo says. The force carries out regular weekend exercises, Aaviksoo says, "to prepare for possible cyber contingencies."

The unit is but one division of Estonia’s Total Defense League, an all-volunteer paramilitary force dedicated to maintaining the country’s security and preserving its independence. …

The sense of cyber vulnerability in Estonia has been a key rallying point for the Cyber Defense League. No democratic country in the world has a comparable force, with computer specialists ready and willing to put themselves under a single paramilitary command to defend the country’s cyber infrastructure.

Aaviksoo says it’s so important for Estonia to have a skilled cyber army that the authorities there may even institute a draft to make sure every cyber expert in the country is available in a true national emergency.

"We are thinking of introducing this conscript service, a cyber service," Aaviksoo says. "This is an idea that we’ve been playing around [with]. We don’t have the mechanism or laws in place, but it might be one option."  (photo: Radio Dukagjini)

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