Preparing for tomorrow: cyber defence and the New Strategic Concept

  • Last updated: 31 Aug. 2011 15:45

Despite the launch of NATO’s New Strategic Concept in Lisbon, there remain many unanswered questions regarding the Alliance’s mission in cyberspace. Experts have attempted to decipher the position of cyber threats within the context of NATO’s grand strategic debate, both nationally and internationally. So where does the task of countering these threats fit among the Alliance’s core commitments? And what challenges do they present to security and defence policies?

Josh Mayeux, network defender, works at the Air Force Space Command Network Operations & Security Center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado July 20, 2010. U.S. national security planners are proposing that the 21st century's critical infrastructure -- power grids, communications, water utilities, financial networks -- be similarly shielded from cyber marauders and other foes. The ramparts would be virtual, their perimeters policed by the Pentagon and backed by digital weapons capable of circling the globe in milliseconds to knock out targets.  To match Special Report  USA-CYBERWAR/          REUTERS/Rick Wilking  (UNITED STATES - Tags: MILITARY SCI TECH POLITICS)

Behind this backdrop of uncertainty, a NATO-funded workshop will bring together 40 experts from NATO and partner countries, including Russia, to proffer answers and provide an analytical context for a clearer understanding of what NATO’s cyber security strategy should be.

Taking place from 10 to 11 October 2011 in Cambridge in the United Kingdom, this workshop will attempt to steer the perception of cyber threats from a constant annoyance punctuated by embarrassing security breaches, to the economic and security impacts it can pose to both the public and private sectors. Despite this reality, talk of a ’cyber 9/11’ remains at a theoretical level even though intellectual property as well as corporate and government secrets are constantly compromised by anonymous actors.

Key speakers at this workshop will discuss topics such as:

  • Emerging security threats in cyberspace;
  • Command and control in cyberspace;
  • A history of internet security failures;
  • Cyber risks and preparedness in the private sector;
  • Securing the next generation internet; and
  • Governing cyberspace – law, international cooperation and treaty

It is becoming increasingly apparent that many security analysts recognise the importance of cyber defence and view the security of the ‘e-domain’ as being on par with NATO’s more traditional concerns. Cyber attacks offer anonymity and deniability as well as vastly favourable cost-benefit ratios in comparison to conventional military options. It is increasingly probable that a cyber attack on a NATO country will precede, or even replace a physical assault, moving cyber issues to the forefront of security concerns. This requires new strategic thinking to mitigate this very real threat of tomorrow.

Participants from Microsoft, Facebook (UK), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cambridge University will contribute to what promises to be a dynamic exchange of views on a facet of the modern security environment.
This workshop is funded through NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme. For more information, visit www.nato.int/science (see “Calendar” for organisers’ contact details).