Hybrid Threats A Strategic Communications Perspective: 2007 Cyber Attacks on Estonia

Mils Hills

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapterpeer-review


In April and May 2007, Estonia was the target of a coordinated cyber attack. Over a three-week period, government and parliamentary portals, ministries, news outlets, internet service providers, major banks, and small businesses were all targeted, predominantly by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). The cyber attack coincided with the Estonian government’s decision to relocate the Soviet-era ‘Bronze Soldier Memorial’ in Tallinn, which led to significant civil disturbance in both Estonia and Russia. Much of the malicious network traffic showed signs of political motivation and Russian-language origin. The Russian government denied any involvement, blaming ‘patriotic’ pro-Russian groups and individuals. However, the cyber attacks were accompanied by hostile political rhetoric by Russian officials, unfriendly economic measures, and a refusal to cooperate with the Estonian investigation in the aftermath of the attacks, which likely encouraged the perpetrators. The attacks caused some disruption and economic cost to Estonia. Perhaps more importantly, though, they exposed Estonia’s vulnerabilities, and demonstrated the potential of cyber attacks to cause far more lasting damage if intended. However, the incident also demonstrated Estonia’s capabilities and resilience in countering the cyber attacks. Ultimately, the shock caused by the cyber attack led to a significant strengthening of cyber defence capabilities, institutions and legislation in Estonia, the European Union, and NATO.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHybrid Threats
Subtitle of host publicationA Strategic Communications Perspective
EditorsBenjamin Heap
PublisherNATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence
Number of pages2
ISBN (Print)978-9934-564-33-8
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • NATO
  • Cyber


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