NATO cyber defense lags

As warfare evolves into the cyber era, the global organization charged with collective Western defense since World War II is finding itself woefully behind on the times, according to a Danger Room report.

It’s a fact the North Atlantic Treat Organization has been quietly acknowledging, including at the conference for defense leadership in Brussels this week.

NATO’s approach to cyber is barely even in its infancy – there are no guidelines for response to a cyber attack, or even a definition of a cyber attack or the networks (such as public or private) that would be involved.

“We need to think these things through,” Jamie Shea, deputy assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges, told Danger Room.

That’s not to say cybersecurity isn’t on NATO’s radar. In a strategic concept the organization released back in November 2010, NATO recognized the threat and pledged to learn more about the problem in order to address it.

“Cyber attacks are becoming more frequent, more organized and more costly

in the damage that they inflict,” the document noted. “[We will] develop further our ability to prevent, detect, defend against and recover from cyber-attacks, including by using the NATO planning process to enhance and coordinate national cyber-defense capabilities, bringing all NATO bodies under centralized cyber protection, and better integrating NATO cyber awareness, warning and response.”

Still, it’s not clear what NATO has been doing about the issue since that assertion over a year ago – other than talking about it.

“Talking about the NATO of the next decade also would mean talking about the military operations of the next decade. And these deployments are almost impossible to foresee at the moment, since the future threats are unpredictable,” Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Walter Gaskins, NATO military committee deputy chairman, said in October, per SIGNAL Magazine. “But what we do know is that information superiority, and therefore information technology, will play a main role in future conflicts.”

Gaskins acknowledged the problem cyber attacks already present, and said it’s something NATO needs to take action on sooner rather than later.

“NATO nations and organizations already are frequently facing attacks. We need to develop further capabilities on cyber defense. And we need to enhance the cooperation between the NATO nations in the field of cybersecurity,” he said.

So far, it would seem most NATO cyber activity is focusing on the defensive end, according to Shea.

“I don’t see NATO developing offensive cyber doctrine for the time being. They’re too busy trying to figure out how to play defense,” Shea said.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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