New cyber threats bring private sector on board training youths

Cyber Command.
Cyber Command. Source: Estonian Defense Forces

Cyber attacks on digital services and businesses in Estonia are increasing. In response to the cyber labor shortage, the business sector is training secondary school-aged youth in cyber defense.

On the morning of August 26, all of the major Estonian news networks went dark. The Estonian Health Insurance Fund's (Haigekassa) basic services were unavailable between 14:10 and 14:38 on September 7. An attack in September disrupted production and caused data loss in businesses in southern Estonia.

These are just a few recent examples of cyber attacks. The national Information Systems Authority (RIA) recorded 200 serious incidents in September.

"We are seeing an increase in the frequency of cyber-attacks in a war context, and this, of course, highlights the problem that there is an even greater need for young people, for citizens who know how to defend their country and cyberspace," said Marki Tihhonova-Kreek, CEO of cyber company CTF Tech.

In Estonia's largest cyber competition, held in Tartu on Saturday, 120 young people aged 15 to 24 tackled real-life situations related to smart-city services on a cyber training ground. The Estonian Cyber Command (Kaitsevägi) uses the competition to discover the most driven young specialists.

"We have a separate program, cyber conscription, in which young people, just like the ones behind us here, serve in the cyber military. They hone their skills, upgrade and apply them in real life situations," Kristo Pals, the NCO of Cyber Command, said. "This would be a natural progression, starting with the competition, then serving in our cyber military, and eventually serving in the field as a reservist."

The doorknob is constantly banged, but access is rare. For instance, pro-Kremlin hackers attempted to shut down Estonia's digital services after the removal of the Narva tank and other Soviet monuments, but were largely unsuccessful.

As society and essential services continue to digitalize, the demand for cyber defenders is increasing.

"We compare this process to Tiger Leap, which also began with collaboration between the commercial sector, the public sector, and educational institutions," Tihhonova-Kreek said. "Today, we are doing the same thing, in that the private and public sectors are collaborating to foster the kind of future talent that is essential for the development of a smart society."


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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