Lessons from Estonia: Homeland Security Chief Says Cyber Threat “on par with 9/11?     Print Email
Friday, 18 April 2008

Michael Chertoff, the U.S. homeland security head, warned recently that the potential harm of a cyber-warfare attack was “on a par” with what the United States sustained in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

He issued the warning this month at a public meeting of information-technology specialists in California.

This threat is treated in depth in the current issue of European Affairs, due out this week in the article entitled “Cyber War I” about the massive attack last year on Estonia’s civilian infrastructure of communications, finance and public service. Western defenses are still in their infancy, and Chertoff’s comments were partly aimed at getting the tech community to overcome their inhibitions about helping national security in this realm. As described in this reconstruction of the episode in Estonia, the tide was turned in Cyber War I partly thanks to a helping hand from some top global geeks. Written by Kertu Ruus, U.S. bureau chief of the leading Estonian business daily Aripaev, the article talks about the status of Western readiness against computer warfare, including the creation in Estonia of a NATO center to work on this specialized form of war.

At last week’s IT conference in Silicon Valley, Chertoff’s overtures to technology’s private sector were clear: “Please send some of your brightest and best to do service in the government,” he asked the audience. He acknowledged that the Federal government is unable to compete with private industry in terms of money, but hoped that some of the U.S.’s top IT professionals would be drawn to DHS out of a desire to serve their country.

Read Kertu Ruus’s account of Cyber War I in the upcoming issue of European Affairs.

See Also: Cyber risk ‘equals 9/11 impact’, BBC News, 8 April 2008