Hagel: NATO Must Do More to ‘Deal with’ Cyber Attacks

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Oct. 24, 2013, 9:02 a.m.

NATO de­fense min­is­ters agreed this week that they must “do more to deal with cy­ber threats,” U.S. De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel said on Wed­nes­day, as the al­li­ance pre­pared to launch a new cy­ber-de­fense cen­ter next week.

Cy­ber­se­cur­ity was one of the main top­ics de­fense lead­ers from the 28-na­tion NATO dis­cussed on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day dur­ing a two-day min­is­teri­al in Brus­sels. Hagel on Wed­nes­day told re­port­ers that the al­li­ance’s new cy­ber-de­fense sys­tem — the Com­puter In­cid­ent Re­sponse Cen­ter — “is on track to achieve full op­er­a­tion­al cap­ab­il­it­ies next week.”

“The U.S. sup­ports a pro­pos­al for the cen­ter to have teams of NATO cy­ber ex­perts that can be quickly de­ployed to as­sist al­lied na­tions if they re­quest help in deal­ing with cy­ber in­tru­sions or at­tacks,” Hagel ad­ded. “It was agreed that the al­li­ance must do more to deal with cy­ber threats, and this will re­main a top pri­or­ity go­ing for­ward.”

Al­li­ance mem­bers in June iden­ti­fied pro­tect­ing NATO com­puter sys­tems from cy­ber in­tru­sions as a pri­or­ity at a min­is­teri­al meet­ing. NATO Sec­ret­ary Gen­er­al An­ders Fogh Rasmussen said dur­ing a Tues­day press con­fer­ence that de­fense min­is­ters that day “con­cluded that we are on track in up­grad­ing our abil­ity to pro­tect NATO’s net­works against this fast-evolving threat.”

Rasmussen ad­ded that while cy­ber de­fense is a “na­tion­al re­spons­ib­il­ity” for mem­ber na­tions, the mil­it­ary lead­ers at the min­is­teri­al agreed that NATO should “play a use­ful role to fa­cil­it­ate the de­vel­op­ment of strong na­tion­al cy­ber de­fense cap­ab­il­it­ies.” He gave ex­amples of NATO’s role in this realm — in­clud­ing set­ting out the de­fens­ive cap­ab­il­it­ies na­tions should have; con­duct­ing joint cy­ber edu­ca­tion and train­ing ex­er­cises; help­ing na­tions to de­vel­op cy­ber-de­fense cap­ab­il­it­ies in joint pro­jects; and “shar­ing in­form­a­tion, in­tel­li­gence and best prac­tices amongst al­lies.”

At least one ana­lyst main­tains NATO should do more to help pro­tect mem­ber na­tions’ net­works from hack­ers.

Daniel Pit­cairn, a re­search fel­low with Gov­ern­ment Busi­ness Coun­cil, wrote in De­fense One that he has con­cerns with NATO’s de­cision to not be re­spons­ible for the na­tion­al net­work se­cur­ity of mem­ber states. That cre­ates a prob­lem for the United States, he said, be­cause its sens­it­ive data re­gard­ing mil­it­ary as­set and strategies could be com­prom­ised be­cause of oth­er NATO coun­tries’ more-vul­ner­able net­works.

“Of greatest con­cern is the in­form­a­tion al­lies are per­mit­ted to re­ceive re­gard­ing U.S. nuc­le­ar weapons,” Pit­cairn said. “The ATOMAL Agree­ment of 1965 al­lows NATO al­lies to re­ceive con­fid­en­tial in­form­a­tion on U.S. nuc­le­ar weapons cap­ab­il­it­ies and strategy in or­der to en­sure the al­li­ance’s ef­fect­ive col­lect­ive mil­it­ary ca­pa­city. New and as­pir­ing mem­bers of NATO may not be pre­pared to de­fend their net­works from the growth in cy­ber at­tacks they will face when they be­come privy to crit­ic­al U.S. na­tion­al se­cur­ity in­form­a­tion.”

Pit­cairn fur­ther as­ser­ted “the out­stand­ing ques­tion” for NATO’s cy­ber strategy is wheth­er its Art­icle 5 stat­ute — which says “an armed at­tack against one or more… shall be con­sidered an at­tack against them all” — should ap­ply to cy­ber at­tacks.

“Just as the U.S. has as­ser­ted that it ‘will re­spond to hos­tile acts in cy­ber­space just as [it] would to any oth­er threat,’ so should NATO be pre­pared to use its full cap­ab­il­it­ies to counter cy­ber at­tacks,” he wrote.

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