Defense Ministers to Discuss NATO’s Cyber Defenses

NATO is upgrading its cyber defense capabilities

From Jerome Rivet, AFP:  Defense 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 a priority.

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 agencies.

“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. . . .

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 said.

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.

From Adrian Croft, Reuters:  The alliance approved a revised cyber defense policy and an action plan to strengthen defenses in 2011. It is also working to bring cyber defense into NATO’s normal planning process in the same way as aircraft or other military capabilities.

From this year, all NATO allies are committed to introducing a national policy on cyber defense, a national cyber defense authority and an instant response capability to cyber threats. . . .

A debate is under way about how much help NATO should give to individual allies.

"While bigger allies may have a sufficient capacity to protect their own systems against cyber-attacks … small allies maybe don’t," Rasmussen said in March. "In that case, I think we should have a capacity to help allies that request our assistance," he said.

But one NATO diplomat said large allies, such as the United States, Britain, France and Germany, disagree.

NATO has also been looking at whether it needs to expand its role in protecting vital infrastructure such as ports, electricity grids or pipelines, fearing they are vulnerable to attacks from terrorists or hackers.    (photo: FrumForum)

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