NATO: Attack Like WannaCry Could Prompt “Collective Defense Commitment”

Article by Michael Hill – Infosecurity Magazine

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has gone on record to state that a cyber-attack – such as the WannaCry outbreak of 2017 – would prompt a “collective defense commitment” from the intergovernmental military alliance between 29 North American and European countries.

In Prospect Magazine, Stoltenberg wrote: “Attacks can affect every one of us. In the United Kingdom, the 2017 WannaCry virus crippled computers in hospitals across the country, cancelling thousands of scheduled operations and costing the National Health Service millions of pounds. Even NATO is not immune to cyber-attacks and we register suspicious activity against our systems every day. To keep us all safe, as it has been doing for 70 years, NATO is adapting to this new reality.

“For NATO, a serious cyber-attack could trigger Article 5 of our founding treaty. This is our collective defense commitment where an attack against one ally is treated as an attack against all.”

He added that NATO has designated cyber space a domain in which it will operate and defend itself as effectively as it does in the air, on land and at sea. “This means we will deter and defend against any aggression towards allies, whether it takes place in the physical world or the virtual one.

“We must work ever more closely together and leverage our unique network of allies, partner countries and organizations. No single country alone can secure cyber space, but by co-operating closely, sharing expertise, we will not only survive, but thrive in the new digital age,” Stoltenberg continued.

Commenting on the news, Malcolm Taylor, director of cyber advisory at ITC Secure, said that it is not especially surprising, given that the understanding and definition of warfare continues to expand to include cyber-attacks on other nations as the norm.

“Indeed, if anything at all about this is a surprise, it is that it has taken so long; I think cyber-professionals have assumed this was the case for a while,” he argued.

“When people wonder (aloud and not) what might change to shift the balance between attackers and victims, the answer might lie in better international co-operation. If we began to see that, then we could begin to see a powerful change for the better.”