NATO Warns Of Military Response To Cyber Attacks

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO, has warned that cyber attacks could result in a military response and that  it is prepared to treat cyber attacks in a similar way to an armed attack against allies and will make  a military response against the perpetrators. 

US President Joe Biden Russian and President Vladimir Putin have recently agreed to develop a cyber security arrangement between the two countries after discussing the issue of ransomware at their summit in Geneva. Biden told President Putin that certain critical infrastructure should be "off-limits" to cyber attacks.

Biden says he and Putin will begin discussion with the aim to "to begin to bring some order" after a number of recent high-profile attacks by criminal gangs on a number of US companies. These talks will be complicated as they don’t agree as to who was to blame for the growing problem of ransomware.  Alliance members agreed a new cyber security strategy in response, and will for the first time help each other out in the case of “cyber-attacks of significance”, mirroring NATO's obligation of collective defence in the traditional military sphere, expressed in article 5.

Now in a statement issued by the Heads of State and of 30 NATO Governments who attended the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in June, the military alliance revealed it has endorsed a Comprehensive Cyber Defence Policy, in which a decision will be taken to invoke Article 5 “on a case-by-case basis” following a cyber attack.  

NATO leaders also said China presents a cyber security risk has asserted NATO needs to respond to Beijing’s growing power. Jens Stoltenberg says that China was “not an adversary”, saying instead NATO's strategy was to address “the challenges” posed by Beijing, which will “soon be the biggest economy in the world” and “already has the second-largest defence budget, the biggest navy”.

Under Article 5 of the NATO treaty, first signed in 1949, when any NATO ally is the victim of an armed attack, it will be considered an attack on all alliance members, who will theoretically take any actions necessary to defend that ally. “We are increasingly confronted by cyber, hybrid, and other asymmetric threats, including disinformation campaigns, and by the malicious use of ever-more sophisticated emerging and disruptive technologies.  Rapid advances in the space domain are affecting our security... The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the erosion of the arms control architecture also undermine our collective security.  Climate change is a threat multiplier that impacts Alliance security."  

The announcement has come amid rising cyber threats to the alliance, which NATO said are “complex, destructive, coercive, and becoming ever more frequent.”  It said that recent ransomware and other types of cyber-attacks “targeting our critical infrastructure and democratic institutions, which might have systemic effects and cause significant harm.” Recent cyber attacks include the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, which forced the US largest fuel pipeline offline and was apparently done by Russian state backed cyber hackers.

“Reaffirming NATO’s defensive mandate, the Alliance is determined to employ the full range of capabilities at all times to actively deter, defend against, and counter the full spectrum of cyber threats, including those conducted as part of hybrid campaigns, in accordance with international law,” the statement reads.

NATO's Comprehensive Cyber Defence Policy is designed to support NATO’s three core tasks and overall deterrence and defence posture, and enhance resilience.  As an example of more frequent intrusions in other nations’ affairs, Stoltenberg  noted Russia’s meddling in domestic elections and cyber attacks on its neighbors and aggressive military behavior in Ukraine He also made specific reference to Russia-based malware attacks through SolarWinds and on the German government

NATO:    BBC:     USNI:   ReutersOodaloop:     Guardian:     Infosecurity Magazine:    BBC:    

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