Concerned about its assertive neighbor Russia, Estonia plans to upload much of its government data to computing clouds to guard against security threats, enabling the Baltic state to be run from abroad if necessary.
Estonia is one of the world’s most wired countries with 95 percent of government services online. You can vote, register births and cars, sign official documents and set up businesses online, often in a matter of minutes.
But online progress brings risks. Estonia, a country of 1.3 million people, wants to ensure what it calls “digital continuity” – mainly in the face of cyber attacks, especially from Russia. The government aims to finish the first phase of the data migration in 2016.
The Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia have been especially concerned about Russia since it seized Crimea from Ukraine last year. Memories of Soviet rule, which ended just over two decades ago, remain fresh among politicians and voters in the three countries.
In what officials say was a wake-up call, Estonia was hit by cyber attacks on private and government Internet sites in 2007 which peaked after a decision to move a Soviet-era statue from a square in the capital, Tallinn, provoked street protests by Russian nationals and a diplomatic spat with Moscow.
State websites were brought to a crawl and an online banking site was closed. Estonia at first blamed Russia for the attack, but the Kremlin denied involvement.
We learnt a lot from the cyber attacks
Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas told Reuters on Wednesday in Tallinn. “We were already able to defend ourselves in 2007, but now we are so much more ready because of learning from those attacks.”
“One of the things we have to look at is if any of our information systems are physically vulnerable,” Roivas added.
“All possible threats have to be looked into. Having some state registers in the cloud, in clusters, in different locations make them less vulnerable.”