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Nato to be fully operational in cyber space by 2023

Nato is aiming to achieve full operational readiness in cyber space within five years

Nato has to conduct operational activities in cyber space in the same way as it does in the sea, on land or in air, according to Antonio Missiroli, Nato assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges.

“Nato’s full operational capability in terms of cyber security is expected by 2023,” he said in panel discussion on the future of Nato’s cyber policy at the 2018 European Cybersecurity Forum in Krakow.

Cyber space is one of the most “dynamically changing” areas of Nato activity in a “quickly developing domain of regulatory changes”, said Missiroli. “We’re still working on the doctrine, simultaneously developing the training activities in this scope.”

His predecessor, Sorin Ducaru, noted that Nato started considering cyber space as an operational domain only two years ago at the Nato summit in Warsaw.

Speaking at last year’s conference in Krakow, he said cyber threats were among the most pressing priorities for Nato, which linked cyber to its mission of collective defence in 2014 in an update to its cyber defence policy.

The update means that in terms of Article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty, member states are required to come to the aid of any member state subject to an armed attack, included a cyber attack above a certain threshold.

Another panel member, Hans Folmer, a brigadier general in the Dutch army, said “ware are in the very early days, and everything we think today, may change tomorrow”.

Agreeing, Tomasz Zdzikot, the secretary of state in the Polish Ministry of National Defence, said: “We have to think about creating a legal framework for using offensive tools, which is also crucial for deterrence.”

Declaring, that cyber security is an operational domain brings a lot of challenges, he said. “Firstly, the member states have to develop their own capabilities.

“In Poland, activities in cyber space are conducted in two domains: the military domain – which lies in the responsibility of the Ministry of National Defence, and the civil domain – lying in the competence of the Ministry of Digital Affairs.”

Challenges in cyber space not to be underestimated

Justin Kershaw, director of intelligence information services at defence and security contractor Raytheon, said the challenges in cyber space should not be underestimated. “Hybrid warfare is something that we should all consider, the people who will come after us will face something much more complex that just cyber attacks,” he said.

On 4 October, the US announced that it would make its cyber warfare technology and software tools available to Nato to help the organisation deal with cyber threats, three months after Nato announced it would use cyber technology provided voluntarily by member nations.

The US offer came just hours after the UK, US and other allies accused Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU, of targeting political, business, media and sporting institutions in coordinated cyber attacks between 2015 and 2018.

Attribution of the cyber attacks also coincided with an announcement by The Netherlands that it had expelled four Russian intelligence officials after they attempted to break into the networks of the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, while it was conducting investigations on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, as well as the poisoning of Sergei Skripal.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg told reporters that the UK and Denmark have also agreed to help Nato with cyber warfare activities, and he expects other countries to follow, according to VOA.

He noted the use of computers to influence political processes as well as cyber attacks against infrastructure, saying cyber warfare will be an important part of “any future military conflict”. 

Read more on Hackers and cybercrime prevention

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