Romania - NATO

Cyber defence

Cyber threats have become more and more serious during the last years. They are not limited by boundaries and have increased in sophistication and frequency. The global ownership over the cyberspace, their potential globalizing effect, the increased security risk represented by cyber-attacks show the need to work together in international cooperation towards collective cyber security.

Since the early 2000’s NATO, as a defense alliance, has recognized the seriousness of cyber threats and the importance of protecting vital and critical information infrastructure networks.

Cyber defense appeared on NATO's agenda at the 2002 Prague Summit and was later confirmed as a priority at the Riga Summit in November 2006. The first formal common policy on cyber defence has been endorsed at the April 2008 Bucharest Summit.

The rapid evolution and sophistication of cyber-attacks have pushed the issue to the top of the NATO security agenda. The Lisbon Summit (19-20 November 2010) documents have confirmed this as a priority (i.e. the new Strategic Concept and the Lisbon Declaration).

The new Strategic Concept underscores that cyber threats constitute direct challenges to national critical infrastructures and that they may reach levels such as “to threaten national and Euro Atlantic prosperity, security and stability”. Therefore, they require NATO to develop its ability to prevent, detect, defend against these threats, recover after cyber-attacks and enhance and coordinate national cyber defense capabilities.

While the Strategic Concept defines the NATO strategy for the next decade, the Summit Declaration has requested an in-depth review of NATO’s current policy on cyber defence in order to adapt it to the evolving security environment.

At the Wales Summit (2014), NATO Heads of States and Governments have endorsed an Enhanced Cyber Defence Policy, which underlines that cyber defence is part of NATO's core task of collective defence. The policy reaffirms the principles of the indivisibility of Allied security and of prevention, detection, resilience, recovery, and defence. It recalls that the fundamental cyber defence responsibility of NATO is to defend its own networks, and that assistance to Allies should be addressed in accordance with the spirit of solidarity, emphasizing the responsibility of Allies to develop the relevant capabilities for the protection of national networks. The policy also recognizes that international law, including international humanitarian law and the UN Charter, applies in cyberspace. A decision as to when a cyber-attack would lead to the invocation of Article 5 would be taken by the North Atlantic Council on a case-by-case basis.

At the Warsaw Summit in 2016, Allies recognized cyberspace as a domain of operations – just like air, land and sea. This enables NATO’s military commanders to better protect missions and operations from cyber threats. The recognition of cyberspace as a domain does not change NATO’s mandate. As in all operational domains, NATO’s actions are defensive, proportionate and in line with international law. At the Warsaw Summit, Allies also adopted the Cyber Defence Pledge to strengthen the cyber defences of national networks and infrastructures. Each Ally is responsible for its own cyber defences, but NATO helps Allies in many ways.

At the 2018 Brussels Summit, the Allies have agreed how to integrate sovereign cyber effects, provided voluntarily by Allies, into Alliance operations and missions and decided to consider individually, when appropriate, attributing malicious cyber activity and responding in a coordinated manner, recognizing attribution is a sovereign national prerogative.

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Last update: July 2018


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