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Lynn: NATO must get Ahead of Cyber Threat
Now is the time for
NATO to get ahead of the cyber threat, Deputy Defense Secretary
William J. Lynn III said here today.
“The cyber threat is still maturing,” he told reporters
at the European Defense Agency. “I don’t think we’re
at the final stage of what that threat may look like.”
NATO’s November summit in Lisbon, Portugal, crystallized
NATO thinking about the cyber threat, Lynn said. The alliance’s
thinking has evolved a long way from April 2007, he said, when
Estonia suffered a massive denial-of-service attack. The decisions
the alliance is making now are informed by that attack and similar
experiences in Georgia in 2008, as well as by the constant attacks
on U.S. and NATO military networks.
Cyber threats have increased in numbers and sophistication,
Lynn said. The “first phase” threat is “really
concentrated on exploitation –- that’s threats of
intellectual property, stealing military secrets, espionage,” he
Exploitation has moved beyond that toward the threat of denial
of service, Lynn said.
“That’s really what Estonia and Georgia were about
-– that’s an escalation of the potential threat,” he
said, adding that he sees a potential third-phase threat.
“The potential exists for capabilities that are much more
destructive,” he added, noting that this threat could target
transportation or financial networks.
“We’re largely in the exploitation/denial phase,
but history will tell you that somebody will take it to the extreme,” Lynn
said. “That’s a significant reason to act now – to
get ahead of that kind of threat.”
The United States and NATO need to put in place appropriate
protections for critical networks before the threat matures,
“The discussion for NATO today is the threshold step --
we need to be able to protect our own military networks, and
we’re frankly not there yet,” he said. “I think
until you are able to do that, it’s hard to look beyond
for any other capabilities.”
NATO nations are moving quickly and taking the threats to cybersecurity
seriously, he said. The discussion in the alliance six months
ago was what constituted an attack, he noted, and now the discussion
is less on that than on just moving forward with defenses.
Lynn said the discussion of the definition of an attack always
will be around –- especially what constitutes an attack
under Article 5 of the NATO Charter, which declares that an attack
on one alliance member is an attack on all –- but planners
are moving beyond this and simply addressing the threats.
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