Office of the President of the Republic of Estonia

05/31/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/31/2023 14:38

President Karis at CyCon: Cyber security must be a collaborative effort from the whole of society

In his opening speech at CyCon, an international conference on cyber conflict, President Alar Karis drew attention to Ukraine's experience and the need for cooperation between the private and public sectors to ensure cyber security and stressed the importance of international cooperation in cyber space.

"In both peace and wartime, cyber security must be a collaborative effort from the entirety of society," said the Estonian president.

President Karis gave the example of Ukraine, where cyberattacks were targeted at critical infrastructure, such as electrical grids, railway operators and telecom companies, in order to damage the country's resilience. "The lesson is to bring the providers of those critical services to the level where they have the best chances to resist such attacks," said the Estonian head of state. "The only way to ensure their resiliency is seamless cyber security cooperation between the private and the public sector."

The Estonian president said that 15 months after the beginning of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, it is time to learn from Ukraine's experience in fighting cyberattacks, share experiences and find solutions to increase resilience both individually and collectively. "Cyber criminals and state-affiliated hacker groups that may exploit those vulnerabilities have always been a concern, but the current geopolitical confrontation makes the situation much worse, and requires sustained attention on cyber security," said President Karis. He pointed out that in 2022, the number of cyberattacks against Estonia increased by 300 per cent and also noted that Estonia has experienced waves of politically motivated cyberattacks, for example after the removal of a Soviet-era tank monument in Narva.

According to the Estonian head of state, in the current security situation, both the public and private sectors, as well as the society as a whole, must do more and work harder than ever to increase people's awareness in the name of cyber security. He also underlined the importance of international cooperation in cyber space. While Estonia and many other countries consider international humanitarian law applicable to the actions of states in cyber space, President Karis believes that in the context of Russian aggression against Ukraine, it should be clarified how these rules law apply when cyberattacks are used in an armed conflict.

According to the Estonian head of state, in addition to ensuring accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression, accountability in cyber space and for cyberattacks must also be discussed in the context of Russia's war of aggression. "In Ukraine, as in other armed conflicts, we should not think of cyberattacks during armed conflict as something separate from the rest of the military campaign. The same logic should apply to accountability," he said. "Criminals, and particularly war criminals, should not be able to hide from their responsibility in cyber space."

President Karis also welcomed Ukraine's accession to the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence and noted that Ukraine has become a leader in understanding the cyber dimension in modern warfare, which presents a great opportunity for other members of the centre to learn from their Ukrainian friends.

CyCon, a conference focusing on cyber conflict, is organised by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE).