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Estonia fears Russian cyber attack, will move government data to cloud

Staff writer |
Estonia is planning to upload all of its government data to the cloud so that the country can be run from abroad if necessary.

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Estonia is one of the world's most connected countries with 95 percent of government services run online.

Citizens are able to vote, register births, log new cars, sign official documents and set up businesses online. Each resident is also assigned a digital number that allows access to government services and e-payments.

The country’s government is concerned about its proximity to Russia and possible cyber-attacks emanating from there. Estonia says it wants to ensure "digital continuity" and moving data to the cloud offers security in the face of mounting digital threats.

Estonia aims to finish the first phase of migrating the data of its 1.3 million residents at some point in 2016.

The country was hit by cyber-attacks on private and government internet sites in 2007 after a decision to move a Soviet-era statue from a square in the capital, Tallinn, provoked street protests by Russian nationals and a diplomatic spat with Moscow.

"We learnt a lot from the cyber-attacks. We were already able to defend ourselves in 2007, but now we are so much more ready because of learning from those attacks," Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas said.

"One of the things we have to look at is if any of our information systems are physically vulnerable. All possible threats have to be looked into. Having some state registers in the cloud, in clusters, in different locations, make them less vulnerable."

Systems that will allow for government services to be run from servers based in Estonian embassies will take longer to implement as there are legal uncertainties and technical issues.

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