Estonia considers a UK 'Data Embassy' to protect its data

Estonian officials are considering backing up their country's data including election data, banking credentials and property deeds in a British data centre as a precaution as tensions between it and Russia have begun to escalate.

The UK has begun initial talks with Estonia regarding a joint data management project in order to protect the country's data from cyber attacks.

Estonia was one of the first European countries to go digital and its citizens currently pay their taxes and vote using the internet. Taavi Kotka, the cyber chief of the Estonian government highlighted how the country has completely gone digital, saying: “There's almost nothing now we don't do digitally.”

In response to why the country needs to back up its data elsewhere, Kotka said: “We have a very aggressive neighbour and we need to be sure that whatever happens to our territory in the future, Estonia can survive.”

Since 2007, Estonia has prioritised cybersecurity after a series of widespread and massively coordinated cyber attacks brought the Estonian parliament, it's banks, broadcasters and newspapers to a halt. Urmas Paet, the country's foreign minister blamed Russia of conducting the attacks but this was never proven as no substantial evidence was ever found.

Estonia is often called the 'tech capital of Europe' due to how it has embraced the digital era. It already utilises a number of data centres, which it refers to as 'digital embassies', across the continent to ensure that it is able to recover in the event of a recurrence of the large scale cyber attacks that crippled it in 2007. In 2014 when the Estonian government drafted its cyber security strategy, one of its main goals was “ensuring digital continuity of the state.”

Though it originally held talks with the UK over storing its critical data in British data centres, Britain's decision to leave the EU has made its original plans less likely. Estonia is now considering making a similar deal with Luxembourg in order to store its data within the EU.

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