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Cyber warriors on the eastern edge of NATO alert that the growing number of people operating worldwide from home due to the pandemic is highly vulnerable to cyber attacks.

The Baltic State of Estonia hosts two Western military alliance cyber facilities — set up more than a decade ago after a string of cyber-attacks by neighbouring Russia.

In an interview, Jaak Tarien, director of NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE), told AFP, “The large-scale use of remote work has drawn hackers, criminals and thugs.”

New problems for employers are generated by the increased volume of knowledge that moves between institutional servers and home networks.

“It is difficult to solve these emerging problems and needs a lot of money as well as a certain kind of strategy,” Tarien said.

“In evaluating the extent of disruptive activities taking place in the busy cyberspace of the Covid-era, we are possibly just scraping the surface.”

In September, an EU-wide study showed that about a third of workers worked from home.

— Online classes boom–

At NATO ‘s Cyber Range, a heavily-guarded facility surrounded by barbed wire in the centre of the capital Tallinn run by Estonian security forces, the concerns are echoed.

Inside, the server rooms act as a forum for cyber security drills and preparation for NATO.

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The job system was built up by experts, but they do not monitor how people use their home internet or how secure it is, “said Mihkel Tikk, head of the cyber policy department of the Estonian Defense Ministry.”

Tikk said the latest cyber attacks have attacked the health sector in Estonia and Mobile-ID — the digital ID built on mobile phones.

Operations at the cyber facilities themselves were also affected by the coronavirus pandemic, prompting the cancellation of offline exercises.

But the NATO Cyber Defence Centre said the silver lining is the increasing success of its online cyber security courses.

Battle a Botnet Invasion,” “Operational Cyber Threat Intelligence “and” IT Systems Invasion and Protection “are included in the online courses.”

By September 1, there were 6,411 students and the centre is aiming for 10,000 by the end of 2020.

— ‘Huge error’ —

After a string of cyberattacks of unparalleled sophistication on Estonian websites in 2007, the Cyber Defence Center was set up.

Nashi, the Russian pro-Kremlin youth movement, assumed responsibility later.

Estonia is facing a “continuous flow of threats” these days, and repelling them requires relentless effort, Minister of Defense Juri Luik told AFP.

Yet he said the nation was in a “pretty decent condition” because it had time to benefit from previous practise.

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We have worked hard to ensure that it is impossible to hack into the computer networks and encrypt the information, both military and civilian information.

“So I think it’s comparatively harder to hurt Estonia than many other countries that might not be so used to cyberspace operations and have paid too much attention to cyber security,” he said.

Without basic cyber hygiene, including password protection, the minister underlined that all this effort will be for nothing.

This is highly important and should be remembered — especially now that more people use computers to work from home.

“You could let your guard down at home and that is, of course, a big mistake.”