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Bush, Estonian president talk cyberattacks

After meeting stateside with the leader of the Baltic nation, the president says the recent incidents are an "interesting subject" and admits he has a "lot to learn" about the threats.

Anne Broache Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Anne Broache
covers Capitol Hill goings-on and technology policy from Washington, D.C.
Anne Broache
2 min read

When Estonian President Toomas Ilves dropped by the Oval Office for a visit with the president on Monday, a recent wave of cyberattacks with suspected Russian origins was high on the European leader's mind.

"It is a serious issue if your most important computer systems go down in a country like mine, where 97 percent of bank transactions are done on the Internet," Ilves said, according to a transcript provided by the White House. "When you are a highly Interneted [sic] country like we are, then these kinds of attacks can do very serious damage."

In a photo opportunity with the president, Ilves said he believes warfare of the digital kind is "the wave of the future" and called on highly wired nations like his and the United States to work together to fight that scourge.

Bush, for his part, deemed the attacks "an interesting subject, and one that I can learn a lot about." In lieu of offering up a plan of action, he praised the Estonian president.

"This President, one, understands the issue well; two, has got some ideas, including a NATO center of excellence in Estonia to deal with this issue," Bush said. "And I really want to thank you for your leadership, and thank you for your clear understanding of the dangers that that imposes not only on your country, but mine and others, as well."

The meeting came just days after a congressional committee attempted to ratchet up the pressure on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to beef up its responses to cybervulnerabilities. There was no mention at the presidents' appearance, however, of the malware that reportedly knocked the Pentagon's e-mail system offline last week.