headquartered in Estonia, is rapidly taking over the international phone business. Thus, in many ways this small Baltic nation is like a window into the future. Someday, “the rest of the world will be as wired as eStonia.”4 That is what made the cyber attack against Estonia all the more affective.
In a matter of days the cyber attacks brought down most critical websites, causing widespread social unrest and rioting leaving 150 people injured and one Russian national dead.5 Never before had an entire country been targeted on almost every digital front all at once, and never before had a government itself fought back in such a prolonged and well-publicized campaign.6 Indeed, the attacks were so widespread and the results so grave that Aaviksoo considered invoking Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (“NATO”), which states that an assault on one allied country obligates the alliance to attack the aggressor.7 At the time, Russia was commonly thought to be behind the attacks. Regardless of who was actually to blame though, what is critical about this episode is that it was the first large-scale incident of a cyber assault on a state.8 And it is but a taste of what information warfare (“IW”) can do to a modern information society.
To define the parameters of the threat posed, it is worth considering the worst case scenario cyber attack. A dramatization of a large-scale cyber assault on the U.S. was popularized by the Hollywood blockbuster Die Hard 4.0 during the summer of 2007.
4 Davis, supra note 2.
5 Putin Warns Against Belittling War Effort, Radio Free Europe, May 9, 2007. Available at: . Last visited: 4/20/2008.
6 Davis, supra note 2 (Aaviksoo explains that the attacks “were aimed at the essential electronic infrastructure of the Republic of Estonia…All major commercial banks, telcoms, media outlets, and name servers — the phone books of the Internet — felt the impact, and this affected the majority of the Estonian population.”).
7 North Atlantic Treaty art. 5, Apr. 4, 1949, 63 Stat. 2241, 34 U.N.T.S. 243.
8 Ian Traynor, Russia accused of unleashing cyberwar to disable Estonia, The Guardian, May 17, 2007.