Foreign minister issues statement over Russian cyberattacks on Georgia

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa).
Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa). Source: ERR

Estonia stands with Georgia and several other countries over an October 2019 mass cyberattack which hit the Caucasus country and has been blamed on Russia, foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu says.

In a statement issued Thursday, Reinsalu said Estonia supports Georgia, as well as the U.S., the U.K. and several EU member states in attributing the attack to the Russian Military Intelligence Service, the GRU.

"This reckless conduct demonstrates once again Russia's disrespect for the norms of responsible state behavior as well as reduces stability in cyberspace. As a result of practicing unlawful cyber operations, Russia should be held accountable according to existing international norms and treaties," he went on, according to a foreign ministry press release.

The statement said that the attack was part of a growing trend for hybrid operations, and joins illegal elections in occupied territories, and a deterioration of the situation in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as activities within EU and NATO member states.

"Estonia reiterates its unwavering support to Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity and continues to support Georgia's integration into the European Union and NATO," Reinsalu said, adding that the country remains committed to contributing to the development of a cyber stability framework there.

The U.K.'s National Cyber Security Agency (NCSC) has said the GRU was almost certainly responsible for defacement of Georgian websites, including with picture of former president Mikhail Saakashvili and the message "I'll be back."

Sites affected included official ones such as the president's office and the foreign ministry in Georgia, as well as media channels.

The NCSC said the GRU had also been behind significant cyber operations against Ukraine's electricity grid in 2015 and 2016, which left hundreds of thousands without power for several days, and the NotPetya cyber operation, which caused worldwide financial losses in 2017.

The Estonian government adopted Guidelines for the Cyber Operations Attribution Process in January 2019, a step towards developing a national attribution mechanism which would lead to consideration of a specific foreign state responsible for a malicious cyber operation aimed at Estonia, any NATO ally or EU Member State, and other partner countries.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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