The Threat in Cyberspace

August 18th, 2011   Theme: Internet Freedom

The explosive expansion of the Internet has transformed the world: Today there are over 2 billion internet users, new industries have evolved and revolutions been sparked, notes Veiko Lukmann who is advisor to the Defence Minister of Estonia. He writes about the Nato Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre in Tallinn.

Today’s 2 billion internet users are joined by another 2 billion who are connected to the internet through their smart phones and other mobile devices, mostly in developing countries. In addition, the “Internet of things” is coming into existence – the chips in your car, clock, air conditioning and toaster oven are all being connected to the web. All this interconnectedness is creating new information but also new threats.
In 2010 the virus Stuxnet took over and ruined Iranian uranium enrichment centrifuges. There were no causalities, yet the same type of attack can be used to blow up nuclear power plants, power water supplies or derail trains. In the wake of this groundbreaking cyber attack, a number of significant incidents have occurred:

January: the EU’s Carbon Emissions Trading Scheme suspends operations after more than €28 billion in permits are stolen through cyber attacks.

February: A former official at the UK Ministry of Defence tells reporters that the ministry is subject to 600,000 daily automated botnet attacks.

March: The European Commission’s servers suffer a large-scale attack. The intention is probably to steal sensitive documents about an upcoming summit in Hungary.

April: Cyber-criminals steal 100 million Sony PlayStation user’s personal and credit card data.

May: The American security and defence company Lockheed Martin announces that is has thwarted a major cyber attack. Information on the F-35, a jet fighter purchased by several European countries, has supposedly been stolen in previous cyber attacks on the company.

June: 16 year old girl Tessa accidentally invites every Facebook user to her birthday party. 1,500 show up at her home in a quiet suburb of Hamburg.

20 years ago, we hoped the end of the cold war would augur an era of peace. Instead, we find today that many of our institutions are under increasingly consistent attacks, cyber attacks. This is the reality we have to deal with. One step towards doing that is the NATO CCD COE, a multinational IT-security organization, located in Tallinn (see facts to the right).
Text: Veiko Lukmann,



The Nato Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence is a NATO-accredited multinational organization dealing with education, consultation, lessons learned, research and development in the field of cyber security.
Membership at the Centre is open to NATO nations, but cooperation projects are also conducted jointly with NATO partner countries, academia and the private sector. The Centre’s member nations are Germany, Spain, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia. The US, Turkey and Poland are in the middle of a joining process.
CCD COE conducts technical cyber security exercises which give its participants a hands-on experience in defending computer systems and networks from live attacks. They are procedural and designed to provide a better understanding of NATO’s Cyber Defence capabilities and to identify areas for improvement.
A group of world-class international law and law of armed conflict experts regularly meet at CCD COE to mitigate uncertainty around the applicability of the law of armed conflict to cyber incidents. The group’s work is intended to result in a manual on the international law applicable to cyber warfare, similar to the manuals on the law applicable to armed conflicts at sea (1994) and air and missile warfare (2010). The handbook will be published in 2012.
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