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Hot on the heels of a US Air Force Colonel advocating building a bigger, badder and bolder bot-net (reported here on the Internet Patrol) comes news that seven of the twenty-six current members of NATO, the military alliance of democratic European and North American states, are to establish the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre Of Excellence, in Tallinn, Estonia, taking further the work of NATO’s existing internal computer network defense team.
The selection of Estonia to host the Centre is extraordinarily appropriate, as Estonia is one of the most wired countries in Europe. Its reliance on computers, though, makes it more vulnerable than most to cyber-attack. In April and May 2007 the “Estonian Cyberwar” took down many Estonian web sites including several hosted by government, banks, newspapers and broadcasters. This is now considered by many to be one of the largest and most sophisticated cyber-attacks to date, and many countries are studying the techniques used, one of which was the rental of large bot-nets more usually used to distribute spam.
Although Estonia accused the Kremlin of having a hand in the concerted attacks, coming as they did in the middle of a tense dispute between Estonia and Russia over the Estonians’ removal of the Bronze Soldier Soviet war memorial in central Tallinn, experts from both NATO and the European Commission (the executive branch of the European Union) were unable to establish any proof of participation by the Russian government.
The centre plans to recruit 30 experts from NATO member states, to begin operations in August, and to formally launch in 2009. The US – surprisingly, given Colonel Williamson’s interest in cyber-warfare – will not be sponsoring the Centre. It will, however, send an observer. This apparent lack of involvement may be because the Centre will remain small, even as it shares research and experience with NATO members; each member state retains primary responsibility for defending its own networks.
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