Remarks by Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia H.E. Mr Sven Mikser at UN Security Council open debate on 13 February 2017
Estonia aligns itself with the statement (to be) delivered by the European Union. We are also co-sponsoring the Security Council Resolution on Protection of Critical Infrastructure from terrorist attacks.
I would like to start by thanking Ukraine for organizing this very timely discussion today. Our common goal is to make sure that security is not a luxury item; it must be a commodity available to everyone.
Even though the terrorist threat in Estonia has remained low, we have been and will be deeply affected by acts of terrorism both in our region and further afield. Estonia remains committed to our common efforts in the fight against terrorism.
Terrorism is an alarmingly increasing phenomenon both in scope as well as geography. However, I would like to stress that terrorism, in its broadest sense, is a crime.
Past year has saddened us with new horrific acts all over the world, including in our region, Europe. Several of these were committed against critical infrastructure. We all remember the heinous attacks on Brussels and Istanbul airports, where many innocent travelers lost their lives. Indeed, objects of critical infrastructure, for example banks, telecommunications, water and energy supply, transport and emergency services are attractive targets for terrorists. The vulnerability of critical infrastructure is exacerbated by high dependence on information and communication technology in an increasingly interlinked world. Attacks against those objects, including cyber-attacks, could therefore result in unpredictable damage and loss of life.
Estonia knows what it means to be the target of large-scale cyber-attacks. Preparedness and swift action prevented major damage to our infrastructure. However, the cyber-attacks against Estonia in 2007 clearly highlighted the importance of tackling cyber security issues as part of our national security architecture.
Cyber-attacks illustrate the increasingly asymmetrical nature of our present day security environment. One key-word in addressing this threat is resilience. In terms of critical infrastructure, resilience requires close involvement of the private sector that mostly owns and operates these vital services. In some areas, cyber security has become an integral part of operations, for example in banking. Similar attention to cyber security should be broadened to other sectors like critical infrastructure, healthcare, transportation etc. It should also be understood that as governments we cannot expect information-sharing to be a one-way street from companies to governments. To build trust, enhance security and share best practices as well as information about possible threat vectors, governments must also share information with the private sector.
In addition to public-private cooperation, civil society plays an extremely important role in resilience. In order to effectively strengthen our societies, governments have to communicate potential threats to critical infrastructure to their citizens and to ensure their readiness to cope with the consequences of possible attacks. One major contributor to successfully handling the 2007 cyber-attacks on Estonia was horizontal cooperation between information security experts. This led to the establishment of the Cyber Defense Unit of the Estonian Defense League, an innovative model for the involvement of volunteers in national cyber defense. Today it focuses on strengthening the professional cyber defense skills of its volunteer members in order to prepare and enhance support capabilities in a crisis.
It is crucial for countries to map out their critical infrastructure as well as their cross-border dependencies in order to strengthen their national cyber security and resilience. No country can face the full spectrum of cyber threats alone and international cooperation is crucial for preventing worst-case scenarios. We therefore encourage countries further to share knowledge and contribute to capacity building across borders, supporting wider acknowledgement of cyber security threats and their mitigation.
Estonia has extensive experience in leading and contributing to various cyber security and digital development capacity building efforts globally. We will continue to share our best practices and lessons learned. Here at the United Nations we are proud to contribute to cyber security through the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications.
Cooperation that is all-inclusive is the foundation of resilience. This ensures that the critical players in cyber security − governments, militaries, intelligence, critical infrastructure operators and key players of the private sector − are fully informed, prepared and sufficiently capable of handling large-scale cyberattacks.
I would like to reiterate the importance of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime. The Budapest Convention is the only binding international instrument dealing with cybercrime, and it also covers the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes. The effective implementation of the Cybercrime Convention would ensure that national legislations provide appropriate sanctions for cases involving serious attacks, including terrorist ones, on IT-based or IT-general infrastructure.
Estonia calls upon every country to adopt policies, strategies and regulations that help to achieve and maintain an open, resilient, secure and peaceful cyberspace. We must meet the highest standards of due diligence in development and use of information and communication technologies.
Prevention is the only means for avoiding radicalization and recruitment to terrorist organizations altogether, as well as for eliminating the terrorist threat to critical infrastructure. We support the Secretary General`s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism. Prevention of future threats should be given highest priority in every country.
In line with this I would like to commend the Secretary General`s initiative to consolidate and streamline the UN counter-terrorism structures while improving their transparency. We hope the new structure will also focus on the Prevention of Violent Extremism as its main objective.
Thank you for your attention.