The alliance will guard its cyber domain—and invoke collective defence if required (This article appears in Prospect’s new cyber resilience supplement)by Jens Stoltenberg / August 27, 2019 / Leave a comment
It takes just one click to send a cyber virus spreading across the globe, but it takes a global effort to stop it from wreaking havoc—and Nato is playing its part.
In just minutes, a single cyberattack can inflict billions of dollars’ worth of damage to our economies, bring global companies to a standstill, paralyse our critical infrastructure, undermine our democracies and cripple our military capabilities. We have seen much of this happen already. And the reality is that cyberattacks are a threat we will need to contend with in the decades to come.
Cyberthreats to the security of our alliance are becoming more frequent, more complex and more destructive. They vary from low-level attempts to technologically sophisticated attacks. They come from state and non-state actors, from close to home and the other side of the world. Malicious actors can attack anything automated and networked, including the mobile phones in our pockets or the computers controlling our critical systems and infrastructure. Attacks can affect every one of us. In the United Kingdom, the 2017 WannaCry virus crippled computers in hospitals across the country, cancelling thousands of scheduled operations and costing the National Health Service millions of pounds. Even Nato is not immune to cyberattacks and we register suspicious activity against our systems every day.
To keep us all safe, as it has been doing for 70 years, Nato is adapting to this new reality. For Nato, a serious cyberattack could trigger Article 5 of our founding treaty. This is our collective defence commitment where an attack against one ally is treated as an attack against all. We have designated cyberspace a domain in which Nato will operate and defend itself as effectively as it does in the air, on land, and at sea. This means we will deter and defend against any aggression towards allies, whether it takes place in the physical world or the virtual one.
“A serious cyberattack could trigger Article 5, where an attack against one ally is treated as an attack against all”
We are establishing a new Cyberspace Operations Centre in Mons, Belgium, to increase our military commanders’ cyber situational awareness. We can now also draw from allies’ national cyber capabilities for Nato missions and operations.
Alongside Nato’s multilateral efforts to tackle the cyberthreat, individual allies are boosting their own cyber…