NATO takes up cyber-defence as threat grows
BELGIUM: Defence ministers from NATO’s 28 member states meet
on Tuesday with cyber-defence top of the agenda, amid concerns about the
threat posed by increasing cyber-attacks, many blamed on China. “The
challenge evolves all the time, probably (much faster) than any other
type of threat we face at the moment,” said one senior NATO official who
asked not to be named.
“We have to make certain that NATO keeps pace with the threat,” the
official added, looking ahead to the meeting Tuesday and Wednesday.
Newly appointed US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who will be
attending his first NATO meeting since taking office, has made the issue
In Singapore on Saturday he accused China of waging cyber-espionage
against the US after a US report found evidence of a broad Chinese
spying campaign against top US defence contractors and government
“The United States has expressed our concerns about the growing
threat of cyber intrusions, some of which appear to be tied to the
Chinese government and military,” he told an annual conference known as
the Shangri-La Dialogue. Hagel pressed Beijing to adhere to
“international norms of responsible behaviour in cyberspace”, while
acknowledging that the establishment of a joint cyber security working
group was a positive step in fostering dialogue.
NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen made clear earlier this year that
cyber-security is a key issue.
The US-led military alliance had been forced to upgrade its defences
after several attacks, among them by Anonymous, the hacker group, he
said. Early hacker attacks by Serbs during NATO’s campaign in Kosovo at
the end of the 1990s alerted the alliance to a danger which has only got
more serious since then.
In 2008, NATO set up a cyber-defence centre in Tallin, Estonia, one
of the most connected countries in the world and which itself had come
under attack the previous year.
Estonia accused Russia, NATO’s old Cold War foe, of being behind the
attacks on its official sites and information networks.
The senior NATO official said the alliance would from this year fix
cyber-defence benchmarks for member countries.
The exercise is aimed at protecting information networks, the
electronic nervous system at the heart of modern warfare, the offiicial
There is no intention to develop “offensive capacities,” the official
said, adding that of NATO’s 28 members, 23 have already signed up to
exchange information and help in the event of a cyber-attack.
One diplomat noted that NATO had a special problem because, just as
in conventional warfare, some member “states absolutely do not have the
same capabilities as others.” Some have minimal defences while others,
including the United States, commit major resources to the problem --
but may not always be ready to share their expertise, the diplomat said.
Defence ministers will also discuss Afghanistan, where NATO is
progressively handing combat duties over to local forces as it prepares
to withdraw in 2014.
A key question is how many troops will be kept in Kabul to run a
training and advisory mission post-2014. US officials have mooted a
figure of 8,000 to 12,000.