The Geopolitics of Cybersecurity

On January 25, Young Professionals in Foreign Policy and AJC Access convened a discussion on the geopolitics of cybersecurity. Thought leaders Helen Popp and Petrica Ruta discussed recent cybersecurity developments in Eastern Europe.

Popp is the digital policy and economic counselor and former cyber coordinator at the Estonian Embassy in Washington, D.C. She explained Estonia’s unique position as a leader in cyber security as the target of many cyber attacks and the home of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence.

She started out with a brief overview of Estonia’s cyberattack history, most notably, the 2007 cyber attack that took down the websites of the Estonian parliament, banks, ministries, newspapers and broadcasters. Estonia’s key efforts lie in the inherent safety and security built-in to every single Estonian e-Government and IT infrastructure, Popp said.

Popp also serves as an advisor to the UN Group of Governmental Experts (UN GGE) on Developments in the Field of information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security. She noted that the world must first establish cyber norms, and a legislative and administrative framework in order to peaceful contain and respond to cyber attacks on the global stage.

Ruta is principal at Cisco Security Services and specializes in cloud security for Fortune 100 companies. He discussed why his native Romania has become a hot spot of hacking and shared how he went from working on a submarine for the Romanian government to winning the green card lottery and immigrating to the U.S.

When Romania was part of the USSR, Ruta said, a rigorous math and science curriculum led Romanians to score high on math and science exams. After the Soviet Union fell, the population was highly educated but lacked employment opportunities. Therefore, many young intelligent Romanians began to hack.

Ruta suggested Romania’s hacking problem could be solved if foreign companies hired these young brilliant minds. These companies would benefit from high-quality hackers and relatively lower salaries.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of their employer or Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.

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