Rats trip up Estonia's e-economy

Estonian capital Tallinn Image copyright Toomas Tuul/Focus/Getty Images
Image caption Estonia has one of the world's most advanced digital social systems

Estonia's advanced digital society has seen off hacking attempts in the past, but recently had to concede defeat - albeit briefly - to a rat attack.

The country's online services allow citizens to conduct most of their business at the click of a button, from voting to filing tax returns, and have prompted the World Bank to include "e-Estonia" among the few states close to becoming a truly digital society.

But when the State Information System Agency (RIA) investigated a malfunctioning underground cable that had taken down the eesti.ee digital services portal, they discovered that it it had been damaged by rats, the Postimees newspaper reported.The disruption made it impossible to issue medical prescriptions online and also affected the Eesti Loto state lottery.

A 300-metre stretch of cable in Harju County around the capital Tallinn was repaired overnight without the usual public notification, "before it caused any more damage", RIA's networks chief Kaido Plovits posted on the eesti.ee Facebook page.

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The network was back up and running within a few hours, and there had not been disruption to ID services, but the incident brought back unhappy memories of the coordinated cyber attack on Estonia's digital society in 2007, following a diplomatic row with Russia.

The experience has since prompted Estonia to become one of the world's leaders in cyber security. Estonia is gradually building parallel data connections to provide resilience for its digital society, but Mr Plovits acknowledges that the network is not yet fully protected against the plans of rats and men.

Image copyright eesti.ee
Image caption The damage was repaired overnight

Reporting by Alistair Coleman and Martin Morgan

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