Es­to­nia to open world’s first vir­tual data em­bassy

Server room to con­tain Es­to­nian e-gov­ern­ment data

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

Cy­ber-savvy Es­to­nia has taken yet an­other step for­ward in global tech­nol­ogy, as the small Baltic state is set to open the world’s first data em­bassy in Lux­em­bourg early next year. The heav­ily pro­tected server room will con­tain im­por­tant Es­to­nian e-gov­ern­ment data, so that the NATO and euro­zone mem­ber can ac­cess it even when sys­tems are down at home. “Data se­cu­rity and cy­ber se­cu­rity are gen­er­ally cru­cial from the per­spec­tive of both peo­ple’s con­fi­dence and the func­tion­ing of ser­vices,” Es­to­nian Prime Min­is­ter Juri Ratas said last month.

“It is also an im­por­tant part of so- called daily dig­i­tal hy­giene in in­creas­ingly dig­i­tiz­ing so­ci­eties.” Ratas re­leased the state­ment af­ter sign­ing an agree­ment with his Lux­em­bourg coun­ter­part Xavier Bet­tel on hous­ing Es­to­nian data there. “This is the first data em­bassy in the world,” said Ratas, whose small coun­try of just 1.3 mil­lion peo­ple has been dubbed E-sto­nia for be­ing a trail­blazer in tech­nol­ogy.

Af­ter five decades of Soviet rule ended in 1991, Es­to­nia opted to go hi-tech as fast as pos­si­ble, and still out­strips other mem­bers of the Euro­pean Union, which it joined in 2004. One of the most con­nected coun­tries in the world, the Baltic state has made most pub­lic ser­vices ac­ces­si­ble at a spe­cial state por­tal and even pi­o­neered e-vot­ing in 2005. Its cap­i­tal Tallinn is home to the NATO cy­berde­fense cen­tre, where data ex­perts from across Europe and the United States work to pro­tect the in­for­ma­tion net­works of the al­liance’s 29 mem­ber states.

Dig­i­tal con­ti­nu­ity

Es­to­nia has bit­ter ex­pe­ri­ence in the field: a po­lit­i­cally charged dis­pute with its Sovi­etera mas­ter Moscow in 2007 was marked by a blis­ter­ing cy­ber­at­tack blamed on Rus­sian hack­ers-though the Krem­lin de­nied any in­volve­ment. The at­tack lasted two weeks and took scores of web­sites off­line, in­clud­ing those of the par­lia­ment, banks, min­istries, news­pa­pers and broad­cast­ers. One year later, the Tallinn-based NATO cy­ber-de­fense cen­tre was up and run­ning.

Work on us­ing in­ter­na­tional cloud ser­vices to back up Es­to­nia’s e-gov­ern­ment data be­gan in 2014, when the coun­try joined forces with Mi­crosoft to try stor­ing a state gazette on the cloud. The data em­bassy in Lux­em­bourg will no­tably back up in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing taxes, land, busi­nesses, iden­tity doc­u­ments, pen­sions, leg­is­la­tion and the cen­sus. “The vir­tual data em­bassy’s main goal is to guar­an­tee the coun­try’s dig­i­tal con­ti­nu­ity: the ca­pac­ity to start the sys­tems when nec­es­sary and re­trieve data from ex­ter­nally stored ver­sions,” said Em­i­lie Toomela, spokes­woman for the min­istry of eco­nom­ics and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

“For this, Es­to­nia needs ad­di­tional server re­sources that should be com­pletely con­trolled by Es­to­nia-this means that they should be sub­ject to the same clauses as Es­to­nia’s phys­i­cal em­bassies (e.g. im­mu­nity) — but should be si­t­u­ated out­side Es­to­nia,” she said. Though there is a con­sulate in Lux­em­bourg, Es­to­nia’s am­bas­sador to Lux­em­bourg and Bel­gium lives in Brus­sels.

Toomela said the data em­bassy will have no di­rect link to the em­bassy in Brus­sels, nor will it have any peo­ple work­ing there. “Lux­em­bourg was cho­sen for the state-owned high-se­cu­rity, Tier 4 cer­ti­fied data cen­ters the likes of which Es­to­nia does not have and also be­cause Lux­em­bourg is ready to guar­an­tee diplo­matic priv­i­leges to Es­to­nian data and in­fos­ys­tems,” she added. —AFP

BRUS­SELS: A woman en­ters a video pro­jec­tion dome in the shape of an igloo, in­stalled by Es­to­nia within an Eurogroup meet­ing at the Euro­pean Union head­quar­ters in Brus­sels. —AFP

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