Remarks by H.E. Mr. Margus Kolga, Permanent Representative of Estonia to the United Nations, at the ECOSOC special event on cybersecurity and development
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
First, I would like to thank the President of ECOSOC and the distinguished panellists for the opportunity to discuss complex global security challenges in the context of development. I am pleased for the opportunity to share Estonia’s experience and thoughts.
ICT has been the engine of development in the past three decades in developed and developing countries, both in the private and the public sector. Estonia is among the world’s leaders in developing more transparent and efficient public electronic services to benefit our people. E-government sessions, online voting at national and municipal elections, e-health services and e-prescriptions, an e-school environment for parents and students, online pre-filled tax returns, mobile parking, as well as Skype – are all examples of Estonian innovation. We have shared our experience with some 40 countries around the world, including a number of post-conflict countries, where e-solutions have become an important tool in the transition to democracy.
But far more importantly, they are examples of the transformative power of the intensive and extensive use of IT in the public sector. Critical infrastructure like electricity, water, transportation and banking depend heavily on IT systems and this dependency will grow in the future. Most IT services rely on the Internet. Malfunctioning IT systems can disable many more countries in the future than it is possible today. For that reason states must have the political will, and be trusted, to ensure stability and peace in cyberspace.
Allow me to recall that in April 2007 Estonia experienced politically motivated cyber attacks against thousands of targets. The simultaneous attacks were concentrated on government servers, online media and banks. At the height of the attack, the amount of data traffic targeting our institutions was 400 times higher than its normal rate. Altogether, the cyber attacks lasted for three weeks. They were the first coordinated and large-scale cyber attacks against an entire country.
Tackling cyber-crime starts at home. As a first step, Estonia focused on national preventive measures, appropriate legislation and cyber monitoring systems. Public-private partnership is crucial in this endeavour. Let me also highlight the importance of raising awareness and improving education in this field. Cyber security begins with each individual Internet user and depends on how knowingly and responsibly we all act in the virtual world. In Estonia, we also amended the Criminal Code so that data and system interference can now be considered a terrorist crime when committed with terrorist intent or motive.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
No country can fully prevent cybercrime and cyber attacks originating from its territory or travelling over its networks. But every country is responsible for minimising such attacks and their effects by putting in place regulatory frameworks, sharing information and intelligence, and cooperating with law enforcement and investigations. A failure to do so would constitute negligence or support of cybercrime and attacks.
At present cyber crime is a dominating issue in cyber space. The 2001 Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime (or Budapest Convention) is the only legally binding international instrument that addresses cyber crime. Estonia urges all countries that have not yet done so to sign and ratify or accede to it. The Convention should become the legal framework of reference for fighting cybercrime at the global level.
There are many options to prevent, manage and respond to cyber attacks. I believe we all wish that our steps taken towards enhanced cyber security will be transparent and understandable to all stakeholders. We must not forget that there is only one global Internet for all of us. Estonia is determined to deal with cyber threats without harming democracy, freedom of speech and civil rights. It is our common responsibility to safeguard cyberspace as an invaluable resource and platform for development and innovation.
Thank you for your kind attention.