One day after the G7 summit held in Cornwall, Britain, NATO leaders met in Brussels. One of the significant issues among the many discussed by the heads of the 30 member states was the struggle against the growing threat of cybercrime.
"Cyber threats to the security of the Alliance are complex, destructive, coercive, and becoming ever more frequent," said the joint statement issued at the end of the summit. "This has been recently illustrated by ransomware incidents and other malicious cyber activity targeting our critical infrastructure and democratic institutions, which might have systemic effects and cause significant harm."
Among the decisions on this issue was an agreement on a new joint cyber defense policy that will ensure the alliance's resiliency "against the increasingly frequent and severe threats we face from malicious cyber activity perpetrated by state and non-state actors, including disruptive ransomware attacks against critical infrastructure," the White House said in a statement.
"This updated policy will also provide strategic guidance for NATO’s political, military, and technical cyber efforts to deter, defend against, and counter the full spectrum of cyber threats." It was also agreed that the countries recognize that in certain circumstances a cyberattack might be considered as amounting to an armed attack, and be fought "in accordance with international law, including the UN Charter, international humanitarian law, and international human rights law as applicable."
Regarding the invocation of NATO's Article 5, under which the alliance treats an attack on one member state as an attack on all, it was agreed in a rather vague way that " 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." The article has only been invoked once, following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. However, it was decided that the countries will consider "possible collective responses", including economic sanctions and other additional actions outside the cyber domain.
The talks also dealt with the main adversaries, Russia and China, with the alliance leaders extensively discussing the many existing and emerging threats from the two nations that aspire to change the existing global order. "We are increasingly confronted by cyber, hybrid, and other asymmetric threats, including disinformation campaigns, and by the malicious use of ever-more sophisticated emerging and disruptive technologies… we will address all threats and challenges which affect Euro-Atlantic security," the summit's joint statement said about China.
The leaders sent a similar message regarding Russia, which was accused of "widespread disinformation campaigns; malicious cyber activities; and turning a blind eye to cyber criminals operating from its territory." It should be mentioned that only a day earlier, the G7 leaders issued a strong statement against Russia's aggressive activities in cyberspace.
The two significant summits held one after another this week illustrate the return of the US to the head of the global, table following four years of Trump isolationism. The rehabilitation of greatly strained friendships and partnerships in the international community will help America deal with the many challenges, it faces both in the real world and online. President Biden is strongly promoting far-reaching policy changes and an agenda that no genuine security could be achieved without collective cooperation ("my enemy is your enemy") at a time during which cyber attacks are becoming more frequent, daring, brazen and damaging.