NATO to beef up cyber defensive, offensive capabilities [CyCon Tallinn]

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TALLINN, Estonia — NATO plans to bolster its ability to respond to cyberattacks and cybercrime by developing tools that can deter attacks on critical military and civilian network infrastructure.

The development of NATO defensive and offensive cyber weaponry is tasked to the Western alliance’s dedicated cyber unit, which forms part of NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, or SHAPE.

NATO officially recognized cyberspace as a domain of war in July 2016. The alliance also adopted the position that international law applies in cyberspace.

The urgency behind NATO’s deepening interest in cyber defense is driven by the increasing sophistication of cyberthreats against member states, according to Brig. Gen. Christos Athanasiadis, assistant chief of staff cyber at SHAPE.

“Cybersecurity is now part of NATO’s core task of collective defense. The alliance regards cyberspace as an operational domain in which it needs to defend itself as robustly as it does in the air, on land or at sea,” he said.

Athanasiadis told a gathering of cybersecurity experts at the ninth International Conference on Cyber Conflict, or CyCon, in Tallinn, Estonia, that NATO needs to do more to build capability both within the alliance and between NATO members.

“Regarding developing capability, we have an ambitious plan. The business of NATO is operations, and we need to deliver protective measures,” he said.

NATO has identified a number of key area for improvement. These include developing enhanced processes to detect, evaluate and respond to threats at all levels. Moreover, NATO aims to promote a more significant degree of information sharing between member states’ intelligence agencies to combat cyberthreats against military sites and critical civilian targets such as telecom networks and power grids.

“We must look at how we can share intelligence in a better way. Information sharing between member nations is the most challenging issue within NATO at present,” Athanasiadis said.