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NATO at 75 - Emerging Trends in Cyber-Security Infrastructure

The cyber threats to the allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) have ranged in varied formats. The challenges of the cyber environment have ranged from the state and non-state actors. The evolving geopolitical landscape has brought the importance of NATO to bring cyber-security challenges into its sovereign and strategic interests. The article intends to focus on the role of cyber-security challenges in the technological infrastructure of NATO. 


An Illustration on Nato at 75 - Emerging Trends in Cyber-Security Infrastructure

Illustration by The Geostrata


NATO'S CAPABILITIES IN COMBATING CYBER-SECURITY THREATS


NATO has considered technology as a challenge. The advent of various technologies in the international sphere has resulted in opportunities and critical challenges. The Strategic Concept of 2022 has highlighted the importance of technological advancements necessary for guaranteeing success in military operations.


In this case, NATO has utilised Emerging and Disruptive Technologies to maintain peace and security. Therefore, NATO is in need of adopting technologies that are necessary in the rapidly evolving geopolitical landscape.

In the case of Russia-Ukraine conflict is a case in point. The conflict has witnessed the weaponisation of cyber-security infrastructure for targeting technology networks. The cyber warfare has involved the targeting of data centres and energy infrastructure. The inception of the NATO Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) from Mons, Belgium, has demonstrated the capability of NATO in the technology ecosystem.


In the current period, the key features of cyber threats involve protecting networks, infrastructures and missions. Therefore, NATO’s aim is to protect the vital networks and infrastructure to support an advanced and interoperable cyber security system to enhance resilience. The same is evident in the case of the Vilnius Summit in Lithuania, which aimed to strengthen cyber resilience to counter cyber threats.


The threat actors have targeted the alliance by employing cyber campaigns and activities. This has raised the importance of incident response centres to boost mitigation efforts against malicious cyber-security activities. Therefore, NATO has introduced its Virtual Cyber Incident Support to increase its mechanism to counter cyber activities.


ROLE OF CYBER-SECURITY AND CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE OF NATO


The cyber-attacks against NATO involve containing attacks on critical infrastructure facilities of the country. They range from attacks during periods of national emergencies and elections. Therefore, it is necessary to prepare not only the military personnel but also the civilians to deter attacks in worst-case cyber-attack scenarios with capabilities to impact electronic devices that can weaken the defence capabilities.


The capabilities of various non-state actors in impacting critical infrastructure facilities of individual NATO member states are noteworthy. The actions by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) against the United States, the founding member of NATO, are noteworthy. The attacks involved message hacking of the Democratic Party National Committee in 2016.


In January 2024, the French health insurance company experienced a data breach that affected 33 million French citizens, leading to a compromise in sensitive information dealing with birth dates, social security, and marital status information.

Such threats have also been highlighted by the UK Intelligence and Security Committee’s Annual Report to Parliament. The report has highlighted the possibility of cyber-attacks that deny and disrupt the operations, communications and weapons systems of a country. Therefore, there is a need for NATO to develop infrastructure to curtail damage to essential public infrastructure by denying and disrupting the attacker’s communication systems.


In the recent period, cyber attacks involved critical infrastructure, leading to the rise of cyber threats that extended to vulnerability to critical infrastructural facilities linked to cloud connectivity, operational technology (OT) devices and internet-of-things (IoT).


The attacks have resulted in the prevalence of IoT and OT technologies in NATO countries.

The pressures from cyber-attacks over the technological infrastructure of well-resourced national organisations have increased eightfold since the onset of the conflict in Ukraine. In such a case, the attacks can be linked to a lack of awareness about digital hygiene, resulting in difficulties in thwarting destructive adversaries.


ROLE OF CYBER CRIMINALS AND TECHNOLOGY INFRASTRUCTURE OF NATO COUNTRIES


The cyber-criminals from various countries have targeted NATO countries by using varied messaging techniques. The messages have involved using ‘trojan horse’ to gain access to cyber-infrastructure. The cyber attacks involved the collection of sensitive information about network architecture.


The information can be utilised for transferring to a varied range of players. The targeted email attacks involve embedded codes and attachments leading to the transmission of classified information over the internet, resulting in security risks to NATO forces.

In this case, NATO has involved NATO Computer Incident Response Capability (NCIRC) to assess the vulnerability of the systems and conduct penetration testing to enhance risk management mechanisms.  The process involves minimising the effects of cyber intrusions, prevention and detection. However, the cyber security approach has focused on defensive measures.


The cyber-attacks against the NATO member states have closely been linked with the growing geopolitical disturbances in Europe.  The disturbances due to the conflict in Ukraine have resulted in attacks not only against governments but to think tanks, IT companies and humanitarian organisations in NATO countries.


Therefore, the rise in cyber threats is closely linked to a lack of preparedness, leading to exfiltration and  total destruction of the organisation’s data. In March 2024, NATO was breached by cyber criminals.

The action resulted in the loss of sensitive data containing personnel information, confidential contacts and military maps. The priority of NATO lies in improving its own computer networks and institutions. Therefore, there is a need to build capacity-building among the member countries and increase the importance of information sharing and incident management to build cyber-security capabilities and incident response. 


CONCLUSION


In conclusion, NATO has relied on cyber strategies that have resulted in the sharing of sensitive information. The rapid advancement of cyber threats makes it essential for NATO to build cyber-security capabilities around critical infrastructure facilities to prevent negative impacts on cyber safety and security.


Therefore, it is necessary to define cyber attacks and understand the limits not to address the challenges but to generate interpretation. In such a case, there is a need for an immediate and legitimate definition of information warfare concerning the NATO countries not only to defend but also to deter cyber-attacks by considering the varied range of stakeholders. 


 

BY ANIRBAN DUTTA

TEAM GEOSTRATA

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2 Comments


Insightful!

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NATO must deploy strong countermeasure for cyber attacks

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