NATO Will Retaliate

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 cyber-attack 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. 

The reality is that cyber attacks are a threat we will need to contend with in the decades to come.

Cyber-threats 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. 

NATO's secretary-general has once again declared that members of the alliance will respond with force to cyber-attacks, in line with Article 5 of its founding treaty.

Jens Stoltenberg (pictured) the North American and western/northern Europe alliance's leader, wrote in the latest issue of Prospect magazine that "an attack against one ally" would trigger action from every member of the collective-defence grouping. "For NATO, a serious cyberattack could trigger Article 5 of our founding treaty," wrote the secretary-general. "We have designated cyber-space 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."

In May this year Britain said it would attack back at though it is still unclear exactly what action would trigger a retaliatory hack.
NATO itself, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, was formed in 1949 to counter the Soviet Union and its malign, expansionist plans for the continent of Europe. Since the advent of Vladimir Putin's regime in Russia over the past two decades, NATO has found new purpose.

Dr Kristian Gustafson, deputy director of Brunel University's Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, was not impressed with Stoltenberg's Article 5 declaration and wondered whether it was meaningful in an era where plausibly deniable black hats carry out low-to-medium-level disruption specifically pitched at avoiding triggering a response.

He told The Register: "NATO loses its mind over Russian 'sub-threshold warfare' as if the Russians have some magic war woo-woo, instead of realising that the Russians can do this because we have publicly stated, impossibly high thresholds for war, with lots of headroom to operate under... So it's very rich to say that while everything else the Russians have done hasn't triggered us to take warlike activities... "

Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty has been invoked just once, in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 mass murders in America. The response involved invading Afghanistan and toppling the ruling Taliban regime as part of the US hunt for Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks.

"This announcement is primarily a rhetorical point which is possibly aimed at having a deterrent effect." coomented a spokesman from KPMG, acknowedging that NATO has made similar statements in past years. 

The UK has already started doing this with “CyberFirst,” a programme aimed at supporting and preparing undergraduates for a career in cyber-security. ​Cyberspace is the new battleground and making Nato cyber ready, well-resourced, well-trained, and well-equipped, is a top priority as we look towards the Nato summit in London in December and beyond.

Prospect:            The Register

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