Civil Defense preparation for National Cyber Emergencies

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Like most other countries, Estonia started on its journey of securing cyber infrastructure by cooperation of commercial, government and academic enterprises. These included establishing national identification infrastructure, securing banks, electronic voting and establishing CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team). Efforts were also being taken to raise security awareness in the country.


However, the attack in 2007 jolted the country tremendously. Estonia handled the attacked well and emerged out of the situation due to an excellent collaboration of experts in public, private sectors and civil society. 


Consequently the idea of forming a league was born, wherein entities outside government would contribute towards cyber defence capabilities of the country. The concept was further developed in National Defence Strategy 2010, and in 2011 Cyber Defence Unit was established. The formation has also been given statutory approval through Estonian Defence League Act 2013 (EDL Act). The Estonian Defence League (EDL) is defined as voluntary organization under Ministry of Defence. It can engage in various economic, educational and organizational activities defined by law.

“The burdens of implementation of civil defense measures in peace and war are ‘physical’ and that they ‘directly influence the daily lives of every citizen'” – Vale (1987:1)


The league is placed under commander of Estonian Defence League led by commander of Estonian Defence Forces. The responsibilities of commander of league include formation of structural units, training and approval of activity plans for league and its units. The Cyber Defence Unit is one of the unit of Estonia’s Defence League. The unit is further structured in sub units at local levels. The unit is manned by both volunteers and paid personnel. The membership of the unit has various segments such as youth members, supporting members and honorary members. For an Estonian to become a member of CDU, he has to have an impeccable integrity track record, and a certain degree of technical, legal and policy qualifications. Some members who are working for external employer, and are engaged with league on unpaid basis, are also ensured support and motivation. 

Once a task is given to members, they are required to be in uniform and follow the order of their superiors.


Tasks in which CDU is involved in are stated as under:

1. Education and Training: The unit on regular basis keeps on organizing seminars, training, events, field study and information sharing activities. These activities not only raise the awareness of common people in general but also prepare them for an unforeseen event of cyber warfare.


2. Strengthening public cyber security at large: The experts from CDU possess significant skills and experience to consult public and private organization on cyber security. Thus they also enable reliance of public on security of their transactions, economy in general and functioning of information systems.


3. In wake of crisis and emergency: These days terrorism or other criminal activities are being aided by information technology. The CDU can assist in securing vital functions of the entity. They may also assist organizations in tracking and figuring key details in crimes that may have some cyber flair.


The EDL CDU shall celebrate its 10th anniversary in January 2021. The benefit of the Cyber Defence Unit goes beyond their formal activities and cyber resilience for the nation. The innovative model and the wealth of research at CDU is also attracting other countries and international partners such as Switzerland, US, Latvia, Ukraine, Maryland Air National Guard and others to participate and collaborate.


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