Estonia gets rid of Soviet monuments and raises the specter of worst cyberattack in history

In a few days, the streets of Estonia will be cleared of any monuments from the Soviet era. Its Prime Minister Kaya Callas announced a few days ago that all “symbols of repression and occupation” since since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine they had become “a source of growing social tension“.

The purpose of this measure is a prioriprotect the public order of the country. A small country with 1.3 million inhabitants, where today, One in four citizens is an ethnic Russian. A percentage that reaches 94% in the border town of Narva, where the first statue was removed on Friday: Soviet tank T-34.

However, this is not the first time that the former Soviet republic which was occupied by Joseph Stalin during World War II decides to remove this character type. 15 years ago he tried and finally got up victim of one of the worst cyber attacks in history.

It was early 2007 when the Estonian parliament, known as the Riigikogu, approved Construction Prohibition Act. An ordinance that censored all monuments praising “Nazism or the Soviet occupation” and forced the government to withdraw them less than a month after it took effect.

At that time, Estonia sought above all to distinguish itself from its Soviet past, which it renounced with the declaration of independence in 1991. However, he also tried reaffirm their Western identitywhich had already started construction in 2004 when it joined the European Union and NATO.

The Bronze Soldier

The Estonian Executive – under the command of The leader of the Reform Party Andrus Ansip He soon got down to business and announced the dismantling of a sculpture located in a central square in Tallinn, which was erected in 1947 in memory of the Red Army soldiers who fell during World War II.

The figure known as Bronze Soldier or the Monument to the Liberators of Tallinn, has long been a meeting place for the country’s Russian minority on such important dates as Victory Day on May 9. In recent months, however, it has been the subject of graffiti.

Photos from the daytime protests on April 26, 2007.

Photos from the daytime protests on April 26, 2007.

That’s why when the morning of April 26 police began cordoning off the area to make way for the bulldozers to unhook the statue and take it to a secret location, a group of peaceful protesters gathered at the site.

There were no incidents during the day, reports the local press. But at night they joined violent groups of Russian nationalists which caused serious riots throughout the city. They caused massive damage and resulted in more than 1,300 people being arrested, dozens injured and one dead, according to figures offered by authorities at the time.

At the same time, there was a rally in front of the Estonian embassy in Moscow. And although both protests were quelled on the morning of April 27they were nothing more than a prelude to what was to come.

The Cyber ​​Attacks of 2007

The same day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov condemned the “excessive use of force by the Estonian authorities against the Russian minority” and described the withdrawal of the Bronze Soldier as “a sacrilege against those who fought against Nazism”. Furthermore, faced with the humiliation of removing the statue, Lavrov warned that “there would be serious consequences“. A threat that today is reminiscent of the one he made to Kyiv before he bombed Kyiv in February 2022.

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Then the Russian soldiers were not even stationed on the border with Estonia. However, while the clamor of the protests was still in the background, the Tallinn government began to record massive damage on the web pages of the main public institutions and state bodies.

The image of the prime minister, for example, disappeared from the headquarters online, and the electronic boxes of the ministries were filled with messages from spam to collapse.

Apparently, as established by the Estonian intelligence services, cyber attacks from Russian servers and “of a simple nature, without great technical and organizational complexities and without the capacity to cause serious damage,” according to Lt. Col. Nestor Ganuzawho was head of training for NATO’s Cyber ​​Defense Center for four years, in an analysis published by the Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies.

The cyber attacks are coming from Russian servers and are getting more sophisticated by the day

These types of attacks continued until April 29, but they were far from stopping. began to improve. “They reflect better knowledge of cyber warfare tools and more detailed coordination,” Ganuza said in his report.

The government quickly convened a special crisis team and requested technical support from NATO, but was unable to quell the cyber attacks by May 18.

At that time, thousands of bots infected the country’s services and hindered citizens withdraw money from ATMs, pay your taxes or request a medical examination online for days. State media also ran out of channels to share information, and officials had to fall back on faxes and telephones.

The most digitized country in Europe

The Russian pirates had almost brought Estonia to a standstill. But part of its success is due to the fact that Estonia has developed a complex and advanced network of public and private services over several years. online which made him highly dependent on the Internet.

As early as 2000, Estonian citizens could Paying taxes or follow parliamentary sessions online. Since 2002, they have had an electronic signature for administrative procedures, and in 2005 they were the first to vote in elections from their home computer.

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It was Estonian the most digitized country in EuropeAnd it affected him. But far from being daunted by what was the first cyber attack perpetrated against a country, Estonians set about creating security projects to protect their computer systems and developed a digital society that now allows citizens to 99% of interactions with the state through online.

Also, to prevent another cyberattack from their neighbor to the east from catching them off guard, they put cyberspace at the center of your defense strategy national.

Estonian citizens can conduct 99% of interactions with the state online

A pioneering action if we consider that at that time NATO did not yet consider cyberspace as a domain in its strategic concept. Something that changed with the black episode that Estonia experienced. Based on it, the Alliance decided to consider cyber attacks as a threat to its security and that of its members.

Thanks to its rapid development in the field of cyber defense and cyber security, Estonia today hosts the NATO Center of Excellence for Cyber ​​Security Cooperation (CCDCOE) and the agency of the European Union for large-scale computing systems in the field of homeland security.

A condition that has not been met, however I dispel fear to a new cyberattack after the removal of Soviet war memorials in Ukraine. In fact, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kalas was forced to speak out on the matter and this Thursday reminded citizens via Twitter that “although the country is subject to more large-scale cyber attacks, it is stronger than it was”.

A claim he tried to back up with facts. That Wednesday he got off the street and moved the first of the monuments to a museum of the Soviet era, and shortly after, Luukas Ilves, undersecretary for digital transformation at Estonia’s Ministry of Economy and Communications, announced that he had pushed back “the largest cyberattack since 2007.”.

A group of Russian hackers known as Killnet were quick to claim responsibility via their Telegram account, distancing themselves from the position taken by the Kremlin 15 years ago when it denied responsibility for the cyber attack on territory it still considers part of from its catchment area.

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