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Estonian, Maryland National Guard cyber exercise begins

Posted by jbanc@jbanc.org on August 8, 2017 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (1)

Baltic Jungle, a joint cyber defense exercise of the Estonian Defence Forces and the Maryland Army National Guard, kicked off at Ämari Air Base on Monday.


During their meeting in Estonia on Monday, Commander of the Maryland Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Linda Singh and Minister of Defence Juri Luik discussed the details of the exercise as well as defense cooperation and the training of A-10 Warthog attack aircraft currently taking place in Estonia, spokespeople for the Ministry of Defence said.

According to Luik, cyber defense cooperation between Estonia and the Maryland Army National Guard is well-developed. "The exercise taking place this week at Ämari, in the course of which cyber experts from Estonia and Maryland will practice together how to assure cyber defense in various situations, is a testament to that," the minister added.

In cooperation with Estonian experts, experiences on developing cyber practice fields will also be exchanged in the framework of the exercise, and opportunities for cooperation the fields of education and reearch will be sought.

Ten A-10 Warthog attack aircraft of the Maryland Army National Guard arrived in Estonia last week to practice cooperation with the Estonian Air Force, the volunteer Estonian Defence League and the British-French NATO battle group stationed in Estonia.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS; http://news.err.ee/611741/estonian-maryland-national-guard-cyber-exercise-begins-at-amari

Narva, Estonia mayor and deputy mayor visit sister city of Bel Air

Posted by jbanc@jbanc.org on May 26, 2017 at 2:20 PM Comments comments (1)

By David Anderson

The Aegis

May 26, 2017 8:32 a.m. ET


Narva, Estonia, Mayor Tarmo Tammiste, third from left, and Deputy Mayor Vjatseslav "Slava" Konovalov, far right, stand outside the Bel Air Armory Tuesday with Bel Air sister city committee members who are, from left, Julie Siejack, Patti Sterling, Barbara Tower, Annie Kovach and Tina Zimmerman. (David Anderson / Aegis staff /Baltimore)


The mayor and deputy mayor of Narva, Estonia, which has a sister city relationship with Bel Air, took a whirlwind tour of sites throughout the town and Harford County this week as two communities separated by thousands of miles continue to build cultural and economic ties.

The two visitors also dismissed any concerns about a return to dominance over their country by Russia, their next door neighbor, saying the countries have learned to co-exist over centuries.

Mayor Tarmo Tammiste and Deputy Mayor Vjatseslav "Slava" Konovalov arrived Sunday night and left Wednesday, according to Patti Sterling, the Town of Bel Air liaison for the Bel Air-Narva Sister City Partnership Committee.

They spent their short time visiting Annapolis, Washington, D.C., and multiple locations in Bel Air and Harford County, including the Bel Air Armory, the Liriodendron Mansion, Rockfield Manor, Harford Community College, University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, the Bel Air Library, the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, the Harford Artists' Association in Bel Air and downtown Bel Air.

"We thought, overall, it was a very successful trip in that they not only got to see a lot of Bel Air and Harford County, but we had the opportunity to talk about future initiatives and really had the opportunity to cement our sister city relationship with them," Sterling said Thursday.

She stressed the partnership is not just between the two municipal governments but on "multiple levels."

"The partnership isn't just with the town," she said. "It's with everyone in the town."

Narva, which has a population of about 60,000, is the third-largest city in Estonia.

Estonia, along with Latvia and Lithuania, is one of three counties on the Baltic Sea, often referred to as the "Baltic States" that were taken over by the former Soviet Union after World War II broke out in Europe. The three countries remained under control of the USSR until it broke apart in 1991.

Narva sits on the Estonian-Russian border, separated by the Narva River. Tammiste, the mayor, noted the bridge connecting Narva and Russia is called the "bridge of friendship," a name that dates to the Soviet era.

Tammiste and Konovalov gathered with committee members and town officials in the second-floor conference room in the Armory for a lunch break Tuesday afternoon.

Committee member Julie Siejack, a representative of Upper Chesapeake Health, said photos she has seen of the Narva River bridge remind her of local bridges across the Susquehanna River connecting Cecil and Harford counties.

Tammiste said this week's trip was his first visit to the United States.

"I'm really glad, and I've had good contacts with the people and I'm sure that we have a good future together," he said.

Konovalov called Bel Air "the most beautiful town I've ever seen" and said he has developed "a personal attachment" to the community.

"The people have shown us hospitality, friendship, love," he said. "There is a different kind of attitude to this city ... because of the effort that the committee members have put into the relationship."

Bel Air and Narva have had a sister city relationship since 2014, when the partnership agreement was signed during a Skype session.

The online video communication service was created in Estonia.

"You're looking at two gentlemen who represent the country that invented Skype," Bel Air Town Administrator Jesse Bane said Tuesday at the Armory, indicating the mayor and deputy mayor.

People in both communities have been working during the past three years to build cultural, economic and educational ties.

"We are looking for exchanges back and forth across the great pond and even further than that," said Bane, who chairs the sister city committee.

Barbara Tower, a committee member who represents the Community College of Baltimore County and sits on the Maryland-Estonia Exchange Council, said she has visited Narva during its annual Narva Days celebration of the founding of the city more than 700 years ago.

Tower said she experienced "wonderful hospitality and a warm welcome."

The next visit to Narva will include six HCC nursing students and three advisers — those advisers include Tower, a professor emeritus at CCBC, Siejack, the hospital's clinical nurse manager for community health improvement, and Tina Zimmerman, a professor of nursing at HCC.

The trip is scheduled for late November and early December, according to Sterling.

The students will work with high school students in Narva, using a curriculum the HCC students developed, to educate them about treating and preventing the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Organizers plan to leave the curriculum with the Narva students so they can continue teaching their fellow youths, plus bring lessons learned back to the U.S. to educate youths in Harford County about sexually-transmitted diseases.

"This is not just about nursing," Zimmerman said. "This is about a much more global perspective."

Harford County Councilman Jim McMahan, who represents Bel Air and the surrounding area, discussed the sister city relationship during Tuesday evening's council meeting.

He said officials have "tentatively struck a deal" to bring artworks from Narva to display in the Liriodendron Mansion in the summer of 2018.

"This is something that, a couple of years ago, was unheard of," McMahan said of the exchange.

He said the display could draw people from Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, but "our only stumbling block" is helping the Estonians cover the estimated $15,000 cost to ship the art to Bel Air.

"We will need the help of certain people who can supply us with the capital necessary," McMahan said.

He noted "it will be one of the premier visitations to Harford County, if we can pull this off."

About 75 people attended a panel discussion on Narva at HCC Tuesday evening. Tammiste and Konovalov were on the panel, along with Kristjan Kuurme, secretary of political affairs for the Estonian Embassy, and Karl Altau, of the Joint Baltic American National Committee.



The panelists that participated in the open discussion entitled 'Living on the Russian Border' that took place in Harford Community College (from left): Joint Baltic American National Committee Managing Director Karl Altau, secretary of political affairs for the Estonian Embassy Kristjan Kuurme, representative of the Bel Air History Commission, Narva City Deputy Mayor Vjatseslav Konovalov, and Narva Mayor Tarmo Tammiste. (A photo by Jim Lockard).


Sterling called it "a very open, robust discussion" that lasted about two hours.

The topic was billed as "Living on the Russian Border," but Sterling said Narva's mayor and deputy mayor dismissed the question of potential aggression from Russia "quite handedly."

She said Russia and Estonia have been "neighbors forever," and they have developed strong economic ties.

Two strongholds, Narva Castle and the Russian Ivangorod fortress, face each other across the river, according to the Narva city website.

"They feel very comfortable in their role and being on that border," Sterling said. "Despite having the two castles staring at each other across the river, they don't feel that hostility."

Estonia Leads the Way in NATO's Cyberdefense - Baltic country's response to 2007 cyberattacks has put it at the forefront of NATO's defenses against hacking

Posted by jbanc@jbanc.org on April 30, 2017 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (0)

By Thomas Grove
The Wall Street Journal


April 30, 2017 7:00 a.m. ET

TALLINN, Estonia—A hotel conference room in the Baltic republic of Estonia recently became the front line in a rehearsal for cyberwarfare, in an exercise that tested the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s readiness to repel hackers.


Last week, nearly 900 cybersecurity experts from across Europe and the U.S. participated in an event hosted in Tallinn to focus on defending a fictional country against a simulated cyberattack. The defenders faced real-world scenarios: a knocked-out email server, fake news accusing a NATO country of developing drones with chemical weapons, and hackers compromising an air base’s fueling system.


The exercise—dubbed Locked Shields 2017—was unprecedented in complexity, organizers say. And for the Estonian cybersecurity team hosting the event, it marked the 10-year anniversary of cyberattacks that crippled the Baltic nation’s nascent digital infrastructure. The attacks, blamed on Russia, swamped Estonian banking and government websites and threatened to take the country offline.


Since the 2007 cyberattacks, the former Soviet republic of 1.3 million has transformed into one of Europe’s most tech-savvy countries. Its importance to NATO is vast: As well as playing a central role in hosting the alliance’s deterrent force in the Baltic region, Estonia is at the forefront of the alliance’s defenses against hacking.


Following Russia’s alleged hacking of the Democratic National Committee ahead of last year’s U.S. presidential election, the urgency has never been greater.


To establish a stronger line of cyberdefense, Estonia established a volunteer body that can be called on to protect the country’s digital infrastructure. The unit’s volunteers donate their free time to regular training, much like a national guard. And they are responsible for defending everything from online banking to the country’s electronic voting system if an attack occurred. 


Participants work on their tasks during a live-fire cyberdefense exercise in Tallinn. PHOTO: VALDA KALNINA/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY


“We have lots of talented people who work in the private sector and we offered them the possibility of working once a week for a more patriotic cause,” said Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the former Estonian president who oversaw the creation of the unit. “You basically think of the most dystopian future imaginable and try to defend against that.”


The Russian government consistently maintains that it doesn’t interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, and denies orchestrating cyberattacks. But NATO officials say they have seen an increase in cyberattacks on their networks.


NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier this year there were an average of 400 attacks a month on alliance networks, up 60% from the previous year. He didn’t indicate who may have been behind them.


“Our aim is to give [people] the proper mind-set and capabilities to defend against attacks and to protect the lifestyle we are used to,” said Aare Reintam, one of the organizers of the event.


During the exercise—the eighth in an annual series—teams faced not only simulated attacks on computer software, but also on critical infrastructure. Planners introduced another challenge: fake news. Participants in this year’s exercise had to confront questions from a hostile press.


Organizers hope the experience gives other countries a chance to bolster their own defenses against cyberattacks. The Maryland National Guard has consulted with Estonia over its use of a cyber variant of a national guard. Neighboring Latvia, also a NATO member, implemented the cyber national guard model in 2014.


“We’re not gearing up to go and invade anyone, we’re worried about building up our defensive skill set,” said Rain Ottis, a 36-year-old university professor who is a longtime organizer in Locked Shields. “We have much to protect and much to lose in terms of cyberspace and way of life.”


While the event wasn’t an official NATO training exercise, the alliance had an official presence, and its NATO-accredited hosting center has been praised by Mr. Stoltenberg.


For Estonians, the Russian hacking threat is viewed as real and urgent. Earlier this year, Estonian parliamentarian Marko Mihkelson received an email that appeared to be from NATO, offering a link to what claimed to be an official analysis of a North Korean missile launch.


Mr. Mihkelson, who is chairman of the parliamentary foreign-affairs committee, didn’t click the link. Instead, he flagged the email to cyber experts who said it employed the same malware used last year against the DNC by an alleged group of Russian hackers known as Fancy Bear.


“Their activity in cyberspace is more aggressive, and they’re not even hiding it any more,” the lawmaker said, blaming Russia for stepping up hacking attacks.


Some analysts say Fancy Bear’s use of less-sophisticated phishing attacks that use fake links to compromise system networks is meant not to steal data as much as to announce Russia’s growing cyber presence to Western countries.


“Since 2014 we’ve seen a real shift in Russian operations in which they didn’t really care if they got caught,” said Robert M. Lee, founder and chief executive of cybersecurity company Dragos.


Write to Thomas Grove at thomas.grove@wsj.com


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