Cyber-attacks justify military response

  • 2011-06-08
  • From wire reports

TALLINN - Online attacks must be treated like conventional military assaults, authorities said on June 1 in Estonia, a country which fell victim to a ‘cyber-war’ in 2007, reports AFP. “Estonia supports, and has, since the 2007 attacks, advocated the principle that cyber and physical attack should be treated on the same conceptual basis,” Defense Minister Mart Laar told AFP, after Washington said it would respond to hostile acts in cyber-space as it would to any other threat.
“If cyber-attacks create substantial economic damage, disruption of the functioning of society and human losses, they should be handled as a matter of national security and we should react accordingly,” Laar added.

Estonia, a nation of 1.3 million, has put itself at the forefront of cyber-defense in part because it is home to a flourishing IT sector, but also because of bitter experience. In 2007, Estonian official and bank Web sites were taken down by blistering attacks. The assault was widely blamed on Russian hackers, although Moscow rejected claims of official involvement.
Estonia is also home to the cyber-lab of NATO. The country joined the trans-Atlantic alliance in 2004, 13 years after independence from the Kremlin, which next week hosts an international conference of IT defense experts.
In cyber-warfare, aggressors are often hard to identify and hence may not fear immediate retaliation - a key plank of conventional warfare.

But Laar said that was no reason not to adopt a clear strategy. “We should determine our response to an attack based on the damage it causes or was intended to cause, not the type of weapon employed,” he said.
“Depending on the nature and scale of the attack, the response to it would include a wide range of possible options, including military,” he added.

Laar recently urged fellow NATO members to be “more ambitious” about cyber-defense. This was underlined by senior Estonian lawmaker Mati Raidma, who heads the country’s defense committee. “Because NATO is a collective organization, cyber-attacks against one state should be really seen as cyber-attacks against the whole of NATO,” he said.