A Cyber Attack On NATO Could Trigger Article 5

Few nations have sophisticated cyber capabilities and for operational security reasons, they are closely guarded, rarely shared, and carefully used.

The US Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner warned Russian President  that waging a cyber attack against a NATO country could risk embroiling Moscow in a war against multiple Western governments, including the United States. 

In 2019 NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said all 29 member countries would respond to a serious cyber-attack on one of them.

Recently a NATO official told Reuters that a cyber attack could be considered an armed attack and trigger "Article 5," it was a significant moment. How significant is harder to judge. "Article 5" is NATO's holy grail, the core of what NATO is about. It is part of the Washington Treaty, signed in 1949, that set up the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which started with 12 members and now has 30.

Article 5 states, "The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all."

Mircea Geoană, Deputy Secretary General of NATO, says that when the alliance decided that cyber should be considered an “operational domain,” the bloc also made the call that a “massive cyber attack” on one member state could trigger Article 5 of NATO’s Washington Treaty. This strikes at the heart of the alliance’s defense clause, which states that an attack on one country is considered an attack on all allies.

So, for instance an attack on Poland is effectively the same as an attack on the United States, a powerful deterrent to a potential aggressor, but of course life is never that simple.

For decades it seemed simpler, as an armed attack would be obvious and NATO nations would respond with tanks, artillery, and warplanes. Now, in our new world, nations can be undermined through information warfare and infrastructure crippled by cyber attacks, often difficult to trace.

How NATO should respond to such attacks created much debate, first on the principles of whether a cyber attack could be considered an "armed attack," and secondly if it is, what to do about it.

So, if for instance Poland was attacked with tanks, individual nations are not obliged to respond with military force. Article 5 is powerful but how nations individually respond, with a lot or a little, is still up to them. Nevertheless, a conventional military attack on a NATO nation would get a massive response. Deterrence has worked.

But when we move into the grey zone of "hybrid warfare" that response is harder to predict.

This is one of the aims of Russian strategy towards NATO, to achieve its goals while operating below the threshold that will trigger Article 5. On cyber, those waters will be even muddier given how deniable activity is within cyberspace. In 2014, NATO's leaders made cyber defence a core part of collective defence but policy and activities to implement that decision are still evolving. To that end, for instance, it has a technical agreement with the European Union and a NATO Industry Cyber Partnership. At SHAPE, NATO's military headquarters, there is also a Cyberspace Operations Centre.

Currently, NATO is far more focused on defensive cyber, to secure its systems from attack, and the nature of that is a point of debate.

Some commentators say that passive cyber defence, where you simply build up your virtual walls, leaves the initiative with your adversary, enabling him to probe without consequence until he finds your weak point. Effective defence means also going after the attacker and forcing him onto the back foot, so-called offensive cyber. That is also what would be needed if NATO's responding to an Article 5 breach.

 NATO as an institution does not possess significant cyber capabilities. When it comes to activities, NATO is a command and control organisation using hardware and personnel loaned by members.

Few nations have sophisticated cyber capabilities and for operational security reasons, they are closely guarded, rarely shared, and carefully used. That means if a cyber attack did trigger NATO Article 5, then the actual use of cyber weapons would be outsourced to nations for use on behalf of the Alliance in a coordinated manner. However, as the NATO source told Reuters, a response does not have to be symmetrical, and could theoretically escalate to include a military one.

Persuading 30 nations to agree on this will be hard, and a further possibility is if NATO cannot agree there could be a so-called "coalition of the willing" operating separately. NATO has previously agreed cyber attacks could trigger Article 5, and that itself was a major decision and something of a deterrent to hostile actors. But the reality of having to act on it is now closer than ever before.

Reuters:      BBC:      Cyber Security Dive:     Daily Mail:       C-Span:      GZero

You Might Also Read: 

NATO & Ukraine Agree Deeper Cyber Co-operation:

 

« Making Sense Of The Edge
Twitter Joins Ukraine’s War Effort »

CyberSecurity Jobsite
Perimeter 81

Directory of Suppliers

Perimeter 81 / How to Select the Right ZTNA Solution

Perimeter 81 / How to Select the Right ZTNA Solution

Gartner insights into How to Select the Right ZTNA offering. Download this FREE report for a limited time only.

Clayden Law

Clayden Law

Clayden Law are experts in information technology, data privacy and cybersecurity law.

Resecurity, Inc.

Resecurity, Inc.

Resecurity is a cybersecurity company that delivers a unified platform for endpoint protection, risk management, and cyber threat intelligence.

BackupVault

BackupVault

BackupVault is a leading provider of completely automatic, fully encrypted online, cloud backup.

Jooble

Jooble

Jooble is a job search aggregator operating in 71 countries worldwide. We simplify the job search process by displaying active job ads from major job boards and career sites across the internet.

Lima Networks

Lima Networks

LIMA design and deliver IT Infrastructure solutions and services including managed Security Monitoring services.

Centrify

Centrify

Centrify’s Next-Gen Access is an identity & access management solution that uniquely converges Identity-as-a-Service, enterprise mobility management and privileged access management.

RPC

RPC

RPC is a business law firm. Practice areas include technology and cyber risk.

Foresite

Foresite

Foresite is a global service provider, delivering a range of managed security and consulting solutions.

MAY Cyber Technology

MAY Cyber Technology

MAY Cyber Technology is a Security Management solutions provider located in Turkey & Germany.

Cellopoint

Cellopoint

Cellopoint is a leading manufacturer of information security and email lifecycle management (ELM) products.

QSecure

QSecure

QSecure specializes in the provision of information security and risk management services.

Spanish Network of Excellence on Cybersecurity Research (RENIC)

Spanish Network of Excellence on Cybersecurity Research (RENIC)

RENIC is a membership based sectoral association that includes research centers and other agents of the research cybersecurity ecosystem in Spain.

Corvid

Corvid

Corvid is an experienced team of cyber security experts who are passionate about delivering innovative, robust and extensive defence systems to help protect businesses against cyber threats.

Pentest360

Pentest360

Pentest360 is a 24x7x365 Penetration testing service offered through a feature-rich, centralised platform on the cloud that delivers instant visibility during security assessments.

Infosequre

Infosequre

Infosequre builds up your security awareness culture and turns your employees into the first line of defense against cyber risks.

Chainkit

Chainkit

Chainkit detects adversarial anti-forensic tampering techniques that attackers use to evade detection and prolong dwell times inside a system.

Mjenzi Cloud

Mjenzi Cloud

Mjenzi Cloud is a provider of cloud IaaS solutions including managed backup services, affordable & secure cloud virtual compute/storage/compute services, bare-metal services and cloud security.

Melius Cyber Security

Melius Cyber Security

Melius Cyber Security has developed a world-leading SaaS platform, Cyber Safe Plus, built around continuous assessment and improvement through vulnerability scanning and penetration testing

Rubrik

Rubrik

Rubrik helps enterprises achieve data control to drive business resiliency, cloud mobility, and regulatory compliance.

Inversion6

Inversion6

Inversion6 (formerly MRK Technologies) is a cybersecurity risk management provider that offers custom security solutions.