Estonia's online infrastructure takes a hit

The country of Estonia has been fending off a hacking assault in the past three weeks that senior technology officials there call a cyberattack launched by, or at least from, Russia.

Distributed denial-of-service attacks and Web site defacements linked to the incident have hit government sites, banks, political parties and other organizations, Estonian computer scientists said in radio interviews monitored in Washington.

Estonia joined NATO in April 2004. The Baltic democracy is receiving technical assistance from its NATO allies, including help from U.S. federal agencies.

Estonia now ranks as one of the most wired countries, with many online banks, elections conducted via the Internet and paperless Cabinet meetings, to name just a few examples.

Estonian computer scientists said in interviews from the capital of Tallinn that because 100 percent of the country's government agencies are online and more than 80 percent of its households rely on the Internet, the cyberattack has been troublesome.

The officials added that Estonian cyberdefenses had succeeded in protecting the core systems Tallinn uses for government functions and that the defaced Web sites had been promptly restored.

Computer experts in Tallinn have traced many of the attacks to computers in Russia, and some have charged that the Putin regime is responsible.

Recently, Moscow and Tallinn had been locked in a public relations dispute over a statue of a Red Army soldier that Estonia moved from Tallinn's central square to the city's outskirts.

The Putin regime reflects the Russian nationalist view that the statue of a Red Army soldier represents the Soviet liberation of Estonia.

Public opinion among Estonians takes a less cheerful view of the country's period under Soviet rule.

Russian officials deny any involvement in the cyberfray.

NATO does not include cyberwarfare in its definition of military action, so there was no automatic response from the Western defense alliance.

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