NATO backs cybersecurity defence centre in Estonia

Seven countries have agreed to fund a centre of excellence in the Baltic Republic, one year after the country was besieged by denial of service attacks.

Seven NATO countries have given their backing to a cybersecurity centre of excellence in Estonia, the country which was blighted by denial of service attacks one year ago.

The Tallinn-based Co-operative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence will conduct research and training on cyber warfare and is intended to protect NATO countries against such threats.

Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Spain are sponsoring the venture, but the UK will not initially be involved with the effort. The United States will not sponsor the work either, but it will send an observer.

The Estonia attacks last year prompted NATO to conduct what it called a "thorough assessment" of its approach to cyber defence. In those attacks, for which Russia has been blamed but not admitted liability, Estonia's two main banks became the victim of a sustained denial of service attack. Estonian government websites were at the time defaced.

Over the last year, NATO has taken a series of steps to introduce the centre of excellence, including the development of a cyber defence policy which was approved in January.

"The need for a cyber defence centre to be opened today is compelling," said General James Mattis, NATO's supreme allied commander transformation at the signing ceremony on Wednesday. "It will help NATO defy and successfully counter the threats in this area."

However, the centre of excellence will remain on a small scale, with just 30 staff. Prime responsibility for cyber defences will continue to rest with individual country's governments.

The centre of excellence is due to gain an online presence in August, and plans to formally launch in 2009, according to the Associated Press.

NATO has been considering the issue of cyber defence since a summit it held in Prague, Austria, in 2002.

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