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The Daily Vertical: Remembering Russia's First Web War (Transcript)


Estonia was getting hacked by Russia long before it was cool.

In fact, a decade ago today the era of cyberwarfare began in earnest with a massive Kremlin-backed denial-of-service attack that hit the websites of Estonian banks, media organizations, corporations, and government ministries.

It was a harbinger and it was a warning.

Estonia was also the target of hybrid warfare long before anybody was even using that term.

Ten years ago this week, ethnic Russians, encouraged by Moscow, rioted in the streets of Tallinn; and members of the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi blockaded the Estonian Embassy in Moscow.

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The cyberattacks and the rioting were ostensibly in response to Estonia's decision to relocate a Soviet World War II monument from the center of Tallinn.

But in reality, the Kremlin was sending a message to its neighbors and to the West that it was ready to play hardball.

And it was also a test drive of strategies and tactics that would later be deployed in Georgia, Ukraine, and in points much farther to the West.

All the elements we've come to know all too well were there -- the manufactured crisis, the dramaturgy, the hacking, the use of ethnic-Russian proxies, the plausible deniability, and the disinformation.

A decade ago, Estonia was the target of Web War I and Hybrid War I.

And ever since, we've all been living with the sequels.

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