1 Dec 2011 By GERARD O'DWYER DefenseNews
HELSINKI - The Estonian government has begun a series of initiatives to position the country's NATO-Cyber Defense Center (NATO-CDC) as the alliance's principal cyberwarfare "tech weapon" and a primary source of expertise against cyber attacks on state and private infrastructure.
The NATO-CDC's reputation as a center of cyber excellence was bolstered in November when the U.S. and Poland became full members of the Tallinn-based and NATO-aligned specialist organization. The U.S.'s participation, in particular, is regarded as vital to provide NATO-CDC with the funding and technical expertise the center needs going forward.
"We have long waited for the day that the national flags of the U.S. and Poland fly in front of the NATO Cyber Defense Center. This is one of the most important milestones to becoming the main source of cyber defense expertise within the whole of NATO," said Mart Laar, Estonia's minister of defense.
The decisions by Poland and the U.S. to become full members of NATO-CDC will encourage other NATO countries to follow suit, Laar said. The center's membership also includes NATO states Germany, Spain, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Slovakia.
Estonia hopes to connect NATO-CDC's cybersecurity expertise to ongoing cyber defense initiatives within the European Union and, closer to home, the joint cyber defense projects planned among the Nordic countries.
"A comprehensive European Union cyber defense policy, as well as direct cyber defense cooperation, is needed," Laar said. "Under the proposal from Estonia, the ministers of defense in the Nordic countries have agreed to form a working group that will present specific suggestions on this topic to the Nordic and Baltic chiefs of defense next year."
Enhanced Nordic and international cooperation around a dedicated cyber defense center could greatly improve protection of military network infrastructure, as well as domestic and multinational missions.
The primary funding for NATO-CDC is provided by Estonia, Germany, Italy and Spain. These countries also supply the center with most of its specialist staff.
NATO co-established the CDC with Estonia's Ministry of Defense in 2007, in the wake of a substantial cyber attack that originated in Russia and temporarily shut down the country's banking, government, military and media information technology infrastructure and associated data networks.