In virtual visit, members of NATO PA Committee on Civil Dimension of Security learn about Estonia’s experience in building resilience to disinformation and cyberthreats

23 April 2021

On 22 April, a NATO PA delegation led by Angel Tilvar (Romania), Chairperson of the Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security (CDS), and comprised of 18 parliamentarians from 14 NATO member and associate countries, and the European Parliament, participated in a virtual visit to Estonia.  

The visit focused on Estonia’s experience in building resilience to disinformation and resisting cyberattacks with perspectives from government, the military, academia and civil society. As a global leader in both domains, Estonia’s know-how in effectively countering these threats offers valuable lessons for the Alliance.  

In his opening remarks, Angel Tilvar stressed that “malign actors at home and abroad are increasingly using disinformation and cyberattacks to advance their political and strategic interests and to undermine the security and liberal foundations of Allied societies”. Estonia’s example offers insights about ways to further counter these threats, he added. 

Addressing members of the CDS Committee and commenting specifically on disinformation, Oudekki Loone, Head of the Estonian delegation to the NATO PA, pointed out that “what we call fake news today has always existed: mass and social media have only amplified this phenomenon and the threat it poses.” However, “with good education – open and accessible to everyone – and critical thinking, democracies can overcome the challenge of disinformation.”  

In a first session on resilience to disinformation, the delegation was briefed on Estonia’s approach to reducing the spread and impact of false and harmful narratives. The ensuing discussion addressed the specific threats faced by the Estonian society in the information space, particularly from Russian disinformation campaigns. In response, the Estonian authorities have adopted various strategies to counter hostile information activities and build broad societal resilience to this threat. They include promoting digital and media literacy, cooperating with relevant civil society organisations, actively debunking fake news, and better communicating with the public. 

The second session on cyberthreats discussed Estonia’s experience in deterring cyberattacks, mitigating their societal impact, and countering them. Members heard about the measures taken by the Estonian authorities in recent years to develop the country’s ability to withstand and react to such an attack. The discussions focused on the lessons learnt by Estonia following the 2007 cyberattacks against the country. Participants were also briefed on the leading role played by the Tallinn-based NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) in creating best practices in this area through exercises, experimentation, and partnerships. 

In the last part of the visit, members were briefed about Estonia’s achievements in facilitating practical, direct, and secure interactions between citizens and state institutions through electronic means. Thanks to its efforts in this domain, the country has developed efficient and transparent online governmental services that are resilient to cyberthreats.  

In this visit, the following experts addressed the CDS Committee: 

  • Dr Ivo Juurvee, Head of Security and Resilience Programme and Research Fellow, International Centre for Defence and Security; 
  • Siim Kumpas, Strategic Communication Advisor, Government Office of Estonia; 
  • Florian Marcus, Digital Transformation Adviser, e-Estonia Briefing Centre. 
  • Dr Anna-Maria Osula, Senior Policy Officer, Guard time and Senior Researcher, Tallinn University of Technology; 
  • Raul Rebane, Journalist, Communication Consultant and Strategic Adviser; 
  • Raul Rikk, National Cyber Security Policy Director, Government Chief Information Office, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications; and 
  • Colonel Jaak Tarien, Director, NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. 

The CDS Committee will continue its work on resilience to disinformation and cybersecurity at the upcoming NATO PA Spring Session where members will discuss two draft reports on Enhancing the Resilience of Allied Societies through Civil Preparedness by Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam (France) and Bolstering the Democratic Resilience of the Alliance Against Disinformation and Propaganda by Linda Sánchez (United States). 

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