Is Estonia leading the way for cybersecurity?

645X363 - No Companion - Full Sharing - Additional videos are suggested

The president of Estonia thinks that his small northern European country is paving the way for keeping people’s information protected online.

At a forum on international cybersecurity on Wednesday, Toomas Hendrik Ilves praised his country’s system of online digital signatures, which allow people to securely access a variety of financial, political and medical resources online.

“We have come to the solution that you cannot have any genuine security without a secure online identity,” he said at the George Washington University event.

ADVERTISEMENT
For instance, 90 percent of the country’s 1.3 million residents can file their taxes online in under three minutes, remotely access digital medical records and even vote over the Internet from the comfort of their couch, using the country’s digital national identification system. 

“All these things are possible if and only if you have a secure online identity, because whoever has the data knows it’s you and not anyone else,” he said.

Ilves said on Wednesday that the global public is misguided to fear that “big data” and the availability of everyone’s information online will expose their personal secrets. Instead, they should be focusing on how secure their data are from hackers and others who may be impersonating them online.

“You might be worried about someone knowing your blood type. I’m much more worried about someone changing the record of my blood type," Ilves said. 

“The real issue, and the real issue that I think instills fear in me, is maybe that it can be changed,” he added. “That will require a solution of the sort that we have.”

Estonia was the first real victim of an online attack, when attackers flooded the country with a stream of distributed denial-of-service attacks in 2007. Since then, it has rapidly increased security on national networks and developed a decentralized system to add new digital components onto the online infrastructure.

The odds of the United States, the United Kingdom or other countries following suit, however, is slim, Ilves admitted.

It’s ironic, he said, that the five countries leading global intelligence efforts are also the five “most opposed to having any secure online identities.”

“Why that is I don’t know,” he said. “But in any case, we don’t fear it.”