Pests Force Estonian Government Offline

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The government of Estonia lost internet access after hungry rats chewed through fiber-optic cable located underground near the country's capital, Tallinn. 

Estonian State Portal—a secure internet environment through which the country's residents can easily access state e-services and information—was forced offline for 5 hours as a result of the incident, which occurred last Wednesday. 

Speaking on Estonian radio on Thursday, head of the State Network Department Kaido Plovits said: "It was a fiber-optic data cable that is widely used in telecommunications. Rodents had damaged it in several places, and we had to replace tens of meters of cable to fix the problem. The entire state network had not collapsed, just a small part of it, whose security has not yet been automated."

While the culprits made off with full bellies, Estonians were left digitally stranded as access to several important digital services managed by the State Information Systems Authority (RIA) was interrupted. 

The furry creatures' unconventional meal choice temporarily brought down a handful of health services managed by the Estonia Health Insurance Fund (EHIF), including a digital prescriptions service. Estonians were advised to contact their physician to request an old-fashioned paper prescription or approach the Emergency Medicine Department to fill urgent requests for medicine.

The Eesti Loto website, which sells lottery tickets for the €10,000,000 prize Eurojackpot, was also kicked offline by the peckish pests. The operation of ID cards and mobile ID cards was not interrupted.

The RIA became aware that a crucial cable laid in Harju County had malfunctioned at around 4:30 p.m. on November 20. Emergency repair work was immediately instigated, and many RIA and EHIF services resumed by about 7:30 p.m. Final repair work to the cable was completed at around 9:30 p.m. 

Plovits told the daily Postimees newspaper that under normal circumstances the RIA would announce emergency maintenance work well in advance, but that the rats' activities had called for swifter action.  

Plovits said: "Since the cable was badly damaged, we had to repair it immediately otherwise the damage would be much greater."

Estonia is currently installing a parallel network of data connections to bolster the country's defenses against cyber-attacks and also, it seems, hungry rats. The small European country suffered a major cyber-attack in 2007 when Russian threat actors reacted to the removal of a Red Army soldier statue from the center of Tallinn to a military cemetery.

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