Tallinn, Estonia is one of the most wired societies in Europe and for the past several weeks has been subjected to massive and coordinated cyber attacks on Web sites of its government and critical infrastructure. By all accounts it is an unprecedented electronic assault on the public and private infrastructure of a state. Estonian officials accuse Russia of being the aggressor in response to Estonian efforts to relocate an old Soviet war memorial, a charge Russian officials deny.
This is not the first time two nations have taken their disputes into cyberspace; China and Taiwan have battled over the issue of Taiwanese independence and Israel and supporters of the Palestinian Authority have clashed in cyberspace off-and-on for years. Yet these previous efforts have been little more than petty hacker wars. The focus on "legitimate" targets - as a state would view them - strongly suggests state-sponsorship or at least the leveraging of formal strategic military expertise. And it is not like the Russians are newcomers to the use of cyberspace to further their interests.
This is just the sort of scenario that cyber-security experts and futurists have been theorizing about - and actors of varying levels of sophistication have been playing around the edges at - for years. If early reports are any indication, the success in Estonia is likely to result in more frequent use of digital weapons as a tools of national power. Viewed in the light of recent reports of weaknesses in our own critical infrastructure and the revelations from recent congressional hearings dealing with the dismal state of our national cyber-security it is clear that, despite our physical size and strength, we are not much more prepared to fend off a coordinated cyber-attack than Estonia.