As NATO grapples with mounting security threats— both conventional and irregular—the concerned alli- ance is tussling to deliver a unified strategy for infor- mation warfare and dominance in the
face of increasingly sophisticated cyberspace
technologies exploiting its vulnerabilities.
The enduring quest for cyber solutions and
effective means of deterring attacks dominated discussions
and presentations in June at the annual NITEC 2016 conference in Tallinn, Estonia.
Governments want cybersecurity solutions that reach far
beyond processes that facilitate carrying out day-to-day opera-
tions, said Katrin Suder, state secretary at the German Federal
Ministry of Defense. “Cyber attacks are no more science fic-
tion,” Suder said at the conference, which ran June 7-9. “They
are real and will become even more critical in the future.”
The three-day conference was presented by the NATO
Communications and Information (NCI) Agency and
AFCEA Europe and organized in cooperation with the Esto-
nian Ministry of Defense. The 2017 conference will be held in
Ottawa in April.
Recognizing the perilous future, Germany’s Defense Ministry set in motion sweeping cyber reforms, creating a centralized cyberwarfare unit that mirrors that of the U.S. Defense
Department. The ministry wants to outsource cyber defenses
and engage with different private companies than it has in the
past, such as startups and small businesses developing solutions to combat the spiraling global cybersecurity environment, Suder said.
NATO is following suit and announced roughly € 3 billion
($3.4 billion) in funding for future cyber-based initiatives to
address the swelling number of attacks against an alliance
already struggling with other plights, such as intensified Russian aggression, instability in Europe’s south and the Syrian
The alliance relies heavily on the tiny Baltic nation while
addressing the increase in the number and sophistication of
destructive and disruptive cyber attacks against critical infrastructure, said Adm. Michael Rogers, USN, commander of
U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security
Estonia sits at the epicenter of innovation and cybersecurity initiatives, many of which emerged after the debilitating
2007 distributed denial of service attacks against the nation
that propelled it to pursue continued innovation, said Toomas
Hendrik Ilves, the country’s president. Estonia now exports
much of its cyber know-how across the globe, an expertise
garnered by strong public-private relations created years ago
out of necessity—when the nation was “in dire straits … when
we were poor,” Ilves shared.
Estonia banks on an army of volunteers to help the cash-strapped nation protect its networks—a successful endeavor
that enhances its cyber defenses and fortifies industry relations, said Erki Kodar, undersecretary for legal and administrative affairs for the Estonian Defense Ministry. The
NATO’s Quest for Cyber Solutions Highlighted at NITEC Conference
commonly called Cyber Defense League is an innovative
model that enlists volunteers to provide professional cyber
skills in the event of a crisis. It emerged following the attacks
in April 2007, set off when Estonian officials moved the controversial war memorial commonly referred to as the Bronze
Soldier of Tallinn. The move sparked protests that led to riots
and a follow-on series of debilitating cyber attacks against key
sites that officials have blamed on Russia and led to years of
strained relations between the two nations.
It was no coincidence the alliance built its premier NATO
Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE)
in Estonia, Kodar said. The mission of the CCDCOE, an international military organization, is to enhance the capability,
cooperation and information sharing of education, research
and development and lessons learned.
NATO and its allies continue to face fast-moving security challenges posed by a wide range of threats, which have
repeatedly caught European leaders unprepared, warned Lt.
Gen. Riho Terras, commander of Estonian Defense Forces.
The continent’s militaries are reactionary instead of proactive
and forces no longer can afford to leave enterprising measures
to someone else, Gen. Terras said.
A global complexity threatens security and taxes the United
States and NATO—and their populations—that already are
suffering from what he called “Iraq and Afghanistan fatigue”
and have lost the appetite for war. Therefore, NATO must
learn to work better together, rather than the status quo in
which process often is mired when partners submit dozens of
differing plans for a single military platform such as a helicopter, he quipped.
“Unity is the center of gravity.”
Adm. Michael Rogers, USN, commander of U.S. Cyber Command
and director of the National Security Agency (l), talks about
NATO’s enduring quest for cyber solutions and effective means
of deterring attacks during a panel discussion at NITEC 2016
cyber conference held in Tallinn, Estonia, in June.