Kristjan Järva, Estonian Minister of Technology: “You can never be 100% safe from cyberattacks, but you can minimize their effects”

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The Estonian government has been and is one of the strongest supporters of Ukraine in Europe in its war with Russia. Tallinn has allocated 37% of its annual budget for weapons to kyiv in the last year. This support has not come free to the Baltic republic. In August of this year, Tallinn suffered the “largest cyberattack since 2007” with access blocked to more than 200 state and private institutions. The pro-Russian hacker group Killnet claimed responsibility for it. For Estonia, a country that has digitized almost all of its services, an attack of these characteristics means an attack on the heart of its State, and for this reason it has become a candy for hackers. This former Soviet republic, which declared its independence in 1991, months before the collapse of the USSR, ranks third in the Global Cybersecurity Index, behind only the United States, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia (with which it shares third place). . Kristjan Järva (Tallin, 1990), Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology of the Estonian Government, spoke to ABC about the war, the consequences of cyber attacks and the measures that this former republic is taking. —Why this commitment by Estonia to the digitalization of all its services? —Since we became independent in 1991, Estonia has sought electronic governance as a strategy to improve the country’s competitiveness and increase the well-being of the population. We rely on secure data exchange. We were a young country but without resources, and digital conversion was the only option we had. With our past, we could not offer traditional bureaucratic structures due to lack of money and manpower. We started spending a lot of money, especially in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which was the time to roll out the first online services. “Russia’s military action in Ukraine has further worsened the cybersecurity situation” —Estonia has been a victim of cyberattacks in recent years, and this year during the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well. — Russia’s military action in Ukraine has further worsened the cybersecurity situation in our region. We have seen a rapid increase in the intensity of cyber attacks against Estonia, but Estonia has not been the only target. Similar attacks have taken place across Europe. As a fully digitized country, we understand that the risk of cyberattacks will always be part of society. A risk that should be taken seriously. Being a digital society means being exposed to cyberthreats. The important thing is to be aware of the risks and mitigate them. You can never be 100% safe from cyberattacks, but you can minimize their effect on services. How can they be minimized? Last August the country suffered the last major cyberattack, with the blocking of more than 200 institutions. —The general picture of cybersecurity has deteriorated significantly in recent years as cyberattacks have increased in frequency and impact. However, Estonia has fared well thanks to additional investments in cybersecurity. Cybersecurity must not be limited to talk, but must be accompanied by real activities such as investment, raising the basic level of cyber hygiene and preparing for possible incidents. The dependence of the Estonian digital society on communication and information systems and electronic services is high, so we need to pay more attention to cybersecurity. Security in the field of technology is not just about keeping the software up to date, but about having trained people using the computers. “We have built liquefied natural gas terminals so as not to depend on Russian natural gas” —Since the start of the war, last February, Estonia has been one of Ukraine’s main allies. —We cannot abandon our Ukrainian friends and we support them in everything we can. A few months ago we signed a memorandum of cooperation that includes the collaboration of governments in digital matters and, above all, to continue supporting the Ukrainian administration against possible cyberattacks. “This cybernetic dependency also has its dangers in the power supply. Europe is suffering from an energy crisis and your country depended on Russian gas, how are you dealing with it?

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