The US military sent cyber fighters to Estonia this fall to help the small Baltic state identify and block potential cyber threats from Russia. The goal was not only to help NATO partner Estonia have long been on the fly with its powerful neighbor, but also to gain an understanding of the tactics used by the Russians, which Moscow could also use against the United States and American elections.
This US Cyber Command operation took place in Estonia from late September to early November, government officials from both countries said this week. Officials in Estonia said the operation did not identify any malicious activity by Russia in cyberspace.
This mission, which has become an addition to the already carried out joint military operations of the United States and Estonia on land and at sea, is evidence of the evolution of tactics of the US Cyber Command, which now not only responds to threats, but also pre-studies the activity of enemy states in order to block possible attacks. before they reach their goal.
The Department of Defense has been working to advance this more aggressive strategy in recent years, especially after it became known that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election through hacks and secret social media campaigns.
US officials were on high alert for such interference in 2020, but the November 3 elections did not reveal any serious problems with foreign interference.
“When we assess the threats we face from Russia or other adversaries, it’s really all about partnerships and our ability to actually scale up … and the pace of operations to make it harder for adversaries to operate in the United States. Estonia and other countries, ”General William Hartman of the US Cyber Command told reporters this week.
Estonia became one of the first partners of Cyber Command, also because in the past the former Soviet republic has repeatedly become a victim of hackers from neighboring Russia, including in 2007. Estonian authorities say they have since strengthened their cyber defenses, developed a cyber security strategy and established their own Cyber Command, which, like the United States, is part of the country’s armed forces.
Although during the exercises, nothing harmful was found on the networks, “we learned how the United States conducts this kind of operation, which was definitely useful for us,” said Mihkel Tikk, Deputy Head of the Estonian Cyber Command. “In some areas it is wiser to learn from others than to invent a bike”.
General Hartman declined to discuss the specifics of the operation, but told reporters that networks in Estonia were “very well protected.”