Cyberattacks against Estonia's vital service providers are rising

Computer keyboard.
Computer keyboard. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Cyberattacks against Estonia's vital service providers have risen this year and institutions are having to prioritize cyber security harder than ever before.

Since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, cybercriminals have turned their eyes towards Estonia, Friday's "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.

Hospitals, ministries, and the police have all been targeted.

Einar Laagriküll, deputy director general of the Ministry of Interior's Information Technology and Development Center (SMIT), described this year as "intense".

"It's true that with the onset of full-scale war, the attacks went up, for us, by a factor of about five. And since then, it has stayed at about the same level. Maybe this is a new reality for us. If at the beginning we hoped that maybe at some point it would go down again, it hasn't gone down yet," he told AK.

Although the number of attacks has increased, none of them have caused severe impacts.

Information System Authority (RIA) logo. Source: Nelli Pello/RIA

Andres Klemm, a cyber security expert from the State Information System Authority (RIA), said: "Most of the attacks are still related to denial of service [DoS] or congestion attacks, where an abnormal amount of traffic is generated on a server and as a result, the server is simply no longer able to provide a so-called legitimate service."

Attacks on healthcare facilities are reported to RIA every week, but hospitals' work is rarely disrupted.

The Northern Estonian Medical Center (PERH) has also successfully repelled attacks.

"It was early February when our external websites were hit by a denial of service attack. And we also received intelligence that /.../ on a Russian Telegram channel it was advertised that our hospital website was down. For two hours it really was like this," said PERH's information security manager Kristjan Hinn.

The hospital's work was not affected by the incident.

North Estonia Medical Center (PERH). Source: PERH

The result of these attacks is that institutions and agencies have improved their cyber security. Hospitals and family medicine centers have become more aware of the dangers and are constantly taking steps to reduce them.

"Increasingly, patients want to make contact through electronic channels and so more and more thought needs to be given to the security of electronic channels. This is a growing trend and GP practices need to think more about what they are using in their day-to-day practice — I mean, what kind of software are they using," said Estonian Family Physicians' Association board member Andres Lasn.

He said various attacks have been carried out against family medicine centers.

"The worst-case scenario is if an attacker is able to, for example, lock the databases of a GP practice and say pay money and we'll unlock your patients' data. Less dangerous are those that simply try to fish passwords or try to get into mailboxes. There have been various attacks over time," he explained.


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Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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