Jason Healey, director of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, and Leendert van Bochoven, NATO and European Defense leader at IBM, argue that NATO must “double down” on a core set of priorities following the recent cyber defense policy, leveraging the best capabilities, policies, and practices from member nations and industry partners.

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The publication was released at an Atlantic Council event on February 27 titled “Transforming Towards a Smarter Alliance: NATO’s Role in Cyber Security.”

NATO’s central missions of collective defense and cooperative security must be as effective in cyberspace as they are in the other domains of air, sea, and space. The Alliance started this process after suffering its first major cyber attacks in 1999, during Operation Allied Force, but more than a decade later is still playing catch up. The recent NATO cyber defense policy gives the Alliance a strong boost, giving priority to defense of NATO’s own networks. But now the Alliance should “double down” on a core set of priorities, leveraging the best capabilities, policies, and practices from member nations and industry partners.

To make this case, the first section of this Issue Brief touches on NATO’s cyber past: the experience the Alliance has earned from more than a decade of cyber incidents, and the policies and capabilities that have resulted. The paper then looks at NATO’s present, the existing set of policies and organizations, and concludes with a discussion of NATO’s future cyber capabilities. This last section examines major issues NATO will have to address, along with specific recommendations.

Smarter Alliance Initiative

This issue brief is part of the Council’s Smarter Alliance Initiative in partnership with IBM. The Atlantic Council and IBM established this initiative in response to the NATO Secretary General’s call for European allies to adopt a “smarter” approach to leveraging scarce defense resources to develop and sustain capabilities necessary to meet current and future security challenges. Working with recognized experts and former senior officials from Europe and the United States, the Atlantic Council and IBM have produced a set of policy-oriented briefs focused on NATO reform which will be officially launched during the conference.