President's official website hit by major cyber attack on Saturday

Estonian coat of arms at the Kadriorg Palace
Estonian coat of arms at the Kadriorg Palace Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Office of the President's website has been under a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack for the past three weeks, while most recently it was hit by a massive cyber attack last Saturday, when it received around 40 million views in a few hours.

"The presidential office [website] was severely attacked a few days ago. Fortunately, there was no harm caused. I am talking about a cyber-attack," President Alar Karis told Monday's edition of Vikerraadio show "Välistund".

President Karis added that the competent Estonian authorities confirmed the attack, on the site, was fifty times more intense than the which had preceded it.

"The fact that no harm was done shows that we have learnt a great deal over the past years and that we are able to defend ourselves against such heavy attacks," the president noted.

Tõnu Tammer, head of the State Information System Authority's (RIA) cyber incident response team, confirmed to ERR that the attack had taken place and added that it had been resisted mainly thanks to the additional security measures implemented.

"Three weeks ago, the presidential website was without a doubt subject to jamming assaults. On Saturday evening, July 2, beginning at 6 p.m. and extending for many hours, about 40 million attempts were made to visit the website. Notwithstanding the fact that the President of Estonia is well-known and beloved, this level of interest is neither normal nor natural," said Tammer.

"These attacks have had no effect so far on the website because, thanks to government funding, we have added an extra layer of protection to nationally important websites already in May. This allows us to distinguish between legitimate and malicious queries and avoid a situation in which a website goes down due to an excessive amount of malicious traffic, i.e. attacks," continued the RIA representative.

Since Russia attacked Ukraine, the number of such attacks has doubled, according to Tammer. Since April, there have been more cyber-attacks against Estonian websites and services, but so far there have been no substantial implications.

"To repeat, with the aid of governmental financing, we installed spam filters in front of websites and services. We are currently keeping a tight eye on online activity both in Estonia and in partner states," Tammer said.

Tammer also told ERR on Friday that Estonia was hit by a significant wave of cyber attacks between the second half of April and the beginning of May. Those in May were carried out by the Russian hacking group KillNet. RIA has yet to determine who was responsible for last Saturday's attack, however.

Tammer said, hackers avoid dealing with Estonia because the country's preparedness and defenses are strong, so the impact of the attacks has been minimal and they do not pose a significant threat: "Yes, the website is down and users are losing information, but no further damage has occurred. There is no risk of data leaking or of someone deliberately modifying data in addition to gaining access to it."

RIA representative said that similar attacks will continue for a very long time: "The Estonian people and government will have to prepare for this for quite some time yet."


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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