by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the CYBERSEC GLOBAL 2020 virtual conference

  • 28 Sep. 2020 -
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  • Last updated 05-Oct-2020 09:00

(As delivered)

Thank you Izabela. 

It is good to see you again and a great pleasure to join you in this virtual meeting this morning. 

This is an excellent platform to discuss one of the most rapidly evolving security challenges of our time. 

So let me thank you for the valuable work you do in the context of this conference. And also for your contributions as a member of NATO’s Advisory Group on Emerging & Disruptive Technologies. Later today I will be meeting them again virtually.

Ladies and gentlemen, 

NATO is the world’s most successful Alliance in history for one main reason: because we have always been able to adapt to a changing world. 

For many centuries, security meant addressing threats on land and at sea, and for the last century also in the air. 

But transformed by many recent advances in technology, threats today can take more shapes and come from multiple directions simultaneously.

They come from close at hand or from very far away, from remote sources. From humans or from unmanned systems. From space or from cyberspace. 

These trends are enhanced by rapidly developing technologies such as AI and robotics.   

And here at NATO we take these technological advances very seriously. They have an immense potential, but can also affect our security. And the security of our close to 1 billion citizens is NATO’s core job! 

So today we are adapting once more. To ensure that our Alliance is prepared to tackle threats both in the physical and virtual world. 

Cyber threats are one of them. They are becoming more frequent, more complex and more destructive. 

This is why we have made some important decisions in recent years to make NATO more ‘cyber-ready’ and ‘cyber-secure’.  

We agreed that a cyber-attack could trigger Article 5 of our founding treaty. Where an attack against one Ally is treated as an attack against all. 

We designed and we designated cyberspace as a military domain, alongside land, sea and air. Also space has now also become a domain of operations, as our leaders decided in London last year. 

We agreed to establish a Cyberspace Operations Centre at the heart of our military command structure. 

We have also agreed to integrate national cyber effects or offensive cyber into Alliance operations and missions. 

And we have a Cyber Defence Pledge that is essential for enhancing our resilience to cyber threats.

All of this makes NATO more effective and more resilient to attacks in cyberspace.

Now we have to keep up the momentum. 

Some actors are using the current COVID-19 crisis to exploit our vulnerabilities, including those in cyberspace. They try to undermine us and disrupt our way of life.

There has been an increase in malicious cyber activities since the start of the crisis. 

Research institutes, hospitals and other healthcare services have been targeted. This is dangerous and irresponsible. It can cost innocent lives.  

And these activities do not go unanswered. 

In June, NATO Allies issued a joint statement condemning the destabilization and malicious cyber activities taking place in the context of the pandemic.  

This statement is an expression of our solidarity and support for those dealing with the consequences of such attacks.

The statement also called for respect for international law and norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace.

This is extremely important. There are rules in cyberspace and we need to uphold them.

As we strive to deny the benefits to those who wish to do us harm - and this is a key priority in the broad work NATO does in the realm of resilience.   

To more effectively protect and defend our own NATO networks. And at the same time, to raise the capability and resilience of Allies. 

Through the Cyber Defence Pledge – agreed at the Summit in Warsaw in 2016 – Allies are already strengthening their national cyber networks and infrastructure. Poland, for example, has done some innovative work in developing its next generation of cyber defenders. 

And last year, NATO Defence Ministers agreed to update our baseline requirements for telecommunications, including 5G. 

But what we are learning from the COVID-19 crisis is that we need to do more to better protect our cyber infrastructure. 

And more broadly speaking, we need to do more to remain competitive in the field of new and emerging technologies in a broader sense.

This is key to our security. 

It is also key to safeguard our fundamental values – freedom, democracy, and rule of law. 

We, the political West, are on the verge of a new ‘Sputnik Moment’. Moments where a non-Western power might actually overtake us.  

We are now competing with authoritarian regimes that misuse and abuse new technologies to destabilise us, and to manipulate and disrupt our free and democratic way of life.   

Countries that don’t share our values, such as China and Russia, are investing heavily in technologies that help them increase control over their own citizens and exert influence in the world. 

Some say, some argue that democracies cannot keep up, that we will lose our edge. I strongly disagree. China may be able to collect vast quantities of data without consent, but their companies are not free to challenge established thinking. 

Open societies like ours, that respect international law, where people are free to think, explore and collaborate will always be more effective and more creative than closed societies. 

But maintaining our technological edge requires a collective effort, a permanent effort. 

Effective partnerships are crucial in how successful we are. In building a better understanding of the challenges we face together.

This is why NATO actively engages with partner countries around the world – from east to west and north to south. And partners from industry and academia. 

We also work with other organisations, notably the European Union. 

We have taken concrete steps to intensify our engagement with the EU in the areas of information exchange, training, research and exercises. 

To conclude, ladies and gentlemen, 

A few months ago, the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, launched a forward-looking reflection on NATO in the next decade. It is called ‘NATO 2030’. 

It is about making NATO even stronger militarily and prepared to tackle the unexpected in a more turbulent world. 

Much of the unexpected comes from the rapid pace of technological change. Of course from geopolitics, but also from technological change. So we need to make sure we stay ahead of the curve. 

With the best minds, the best universities, the best companies, as well as the best militaries in the world I am confident we will more than maintain our technological edge and keep our people safe for many generations to come.

I wish you the best of luck, it is a great conference. I am privileged to be this morning with you even virtually. Keep up the good work and we are counting on all of you. Thank you Izabela and see you and listen to you later in the afternoon.

Thank you very much.