Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts e-Estonia: Defending the Digital Frontier

e-Estonia: Defending the Digital Frontier


Ten years after experiencing debilitating cyber attacks from Russia, Estonia is more wired than ever. This small northern European country on the Baltic Sea is pioneering innovative e-governance methods and has declared access to internet a human right. Estonia was the first nation in history to offer internet voting in a nationwide election in 2005. Nearly every citizen has an ID card, which provides digital access to all of Estonia’s e-services, making daily tasks like banking or business operations, signing documents, or obtaining a digital medical prescription faster and more convenient. Recently, Wired magazine named Estonia the most advanced digital society in the world.

But 10 years ago, this fearless innovation culture made the country uniquely vulnerable to equally as innovative acts of warfare. This attack was one of the first and at that time rare cases of large scale acts of cyber-terrorism on one sovereign nation by another sovereign nation. Estonia’s experience left the international community and Estonia itself with many lessons learned. The most important of those was the fact that although Estonia is a member of NATO, its defense policies—and particularly its Article 5—were ill-equipped to effectively address, deter, or retaliate in cases of cyber-warfare.

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