The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) must construct a “cyber shield” to protect the alliance from Internet threats to its military and economic infrastructures, a US defense official told the AFP news agency on Wednesday.
Cyber security is a crucial element for the 28-nation alliance to adopt at its summit of leaders in Lisbon November 19 and 20, US Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said in Brussels.
Lynn said the alliance needs to play a significant role in “extending a blanket of security over our networks.”
“NATO has a nuclear shield, it is building a stronger and stronger defense shield, it needs a cyber shield as well,” he said.
The US government estimates that more than 100 foreign intelligence agencies and governments try to hack into US systems daily, Lynn said, stressing the magnitude of the challenge.
“I think they see the asymmetric advantage that can be gained through cyber technology,” Lynn said.
The threat of cyber attacks was highlighted in Estonia in 2007 when it suffered an assault that disrupted key business and government web services for days.
The Pentagon was forced to review its own cyber security in 2008 after the most serious cyber attack on the US military networks, which came from a tainted flash drive that was inserted into a military laptop in the Middle East.
The Pentagon strategy has “five pillars” to cyber security, said Lynn.
1) Recognizing cyberspace as the next domain of warfare.
2) The need for active defenses.
3) Protection of critical infrastructure.
4) Enhancing collective defense.
5) The Need to “marshal our technological prowess.”
Lynn also stressed that any cyber security strategy needs to take into account threats to critical infrastructure for economies such as power grids, transportation and financial sectors.
“I think at Lisbon we will see the kind of high-level leadership commitment to cyber defense. It’s the foundation for any alliance effort,” he said.
Lynn said he discussed cyber security at a meeting with NATO’s North Atlantic Council in Brussels Wednesday. “I was very impressed with the unity of purpose and the similar vision that most nations in the alliance seem to have towards the cyber threat,” he said.
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