Estonia raises cybersecurity issues at UN for first time

A UNSC session in New York.
A UNSC session in New York. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Estonia raised the issue of the October 2019 Russian cyber attacks on Georgia at the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Thursday, the first time the question has been officially discussed in its own right. Estonia, a non-permanent UNSC member, condemned the attacks and was joined by permanent members the United States and the United Kingdom.

"The intention of the cyber operation organized by the Russian Military Intelligence Service, the GRU, was to discredit Georgia and create confusion. This is yet another example of irresponsible behavior and violation of stability in cyberspace by Russia," foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said, according to a foreign ministry press release.

"Raising this issue today at the UNSC table is historic, and demonstrates that behavior undermining the cyberspace stability is not being ignored. As an elected member of the UNSC, one of the Estonia's objectives is to raise awareness among members of the effects of cyber operations, and the validity of previously agreed international norms of behaviour. We are convinced that the UNSC must deal with new issues which threaten international peace and security but which are only gradually making their way on to the council agenda," Reinsalu went on.

Representatives of Estonia, the U.S. and the U.K. joined UN spokespersons in making a press statement after the meeting, where they stressed their commitment to continuing efforts to uphold an international framework of responsible state behavior in cyberspace, together with the international community.

Estonia's UN Permanent Representative Sven Jürgenson read out the statement, which said that: "We are clear that Russia's military intelligence service – the GRU – conducted these cyber-attacks in an attempt to sow discord and disrupt the lives of ordinary Georgian people."

"These cyber attacks are part of Russia's long-running campaign of hostile and destabilizing activity against Georgia, and are part of a wider pattern of malign activity. These actions clearly contradict Russia's attempts to claim it is a responsible actor in cyber space and demonstrate a continuing pattern of reckless GRU cyber operations against a number of countries."

On 20 February this year, Estonia, the U.S. and the U.K. joined 20 other like-minded countries in attributing the cyber attacks, which took offline over 2,000 websites and the country's national TV station, against Georgia's government and media to the GRU.

Estonia considers the cyber attacks a part of Russia's wider and intensifying hybrid and influence activities against Georgia, which include conducting illegal elections on occupied territories and the significant deterioration of the situation on the administrative line of control in the disputed regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, along with intensified disinformation campaigns.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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