NATO plans to set up a cyber defence centre in Estonia to research and help fight cyber warfare. The Cooperative Cyber Defence Center of Excellence will operate out of Tallinn, Estonia, with a staff of 30.

Half of the specialists at the centre will come from its seven sponsoring countries: Germany, Italy, Spain, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Estonia.

Cyber warfare has been on the NATO radar for the past year, following the widely reported cyber attack against member country Estonia in May 2007. The attacks, which security experts have compared to a poorly coordinated cyber brawl, succeeded in knocking some financial systems in the country offline for several hours, prompting Estonia to ask for help from NATO.

The attacks were sparked by the relocation of the Soviet war memorial in downtown Tallinn, a move that angered the country's ethnic Russians. Russia was blamed for the attacks, although no Kremlin connection to the cyber-incident has been proven.

Allied defence ministers pressed for a a NATO cyber defence policy at their October 2007 meeting, a move that led to the creation of the Cyber Defense Center, NATO said.

The centre will help NATO "defy and successfully counter the threats in this area", said General James Mattis, NATO supreme allied commander, transformation.

The new cyber warfare centre is expected to be online in August and will be formally opened sometime in 2009.

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