Keynote address

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the NATO Cyber Defence Pledge Conference in Italy

  • 10 Nov. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 10 Nov. 2022 10:54

(As delivered)

Ladies and gentlemen.

Good morning and welcome to this year’s Cyber Defence Pledge conference.
I am delighted to be here in Rome with all of you.
And I thank our hosts, Italy and the United States, for their hospitality today.

This year, Euro-Atlantic security has been rocked by President Putin’s war against democratic, sovereign Ukraine.

Just yesterday, I met with Ukrainian troops being trained in the United Kingdom.
Brave young Ukrainians who have volunteered to defend their country.

Ukraine has driven back Russia´s invasion through the tenacity of its people and the support of NATO Allies.

We will keep supporting Ukraine, for as long as it takes.

Part of Russia´s aggression is an invisible war in cyberspace.

In the hours immediately before Russian forces crossed the border,
Cyber-attacks struck Ukrainian government departments, the military and emergency services.

The ViaSat satellite network was forced off-line.
Cutting communications for Ukraine’s police, military and intelligence services.

This attack caused collateral damage beyond Ukraine.
Affecting wind turbines and interrupting internet access for tens of thousands of people across Europe.

Since then, attacks have continued.
‘Data-wiping’ attacks have targeted Ukraine’s government, commercial, and energy sectors.
And a cyber-attack on the railway system tried to disrupt not only the transport of military supplies to the front,
but also the evacuation of Ukrainian citizens.

They tried, but they failed.

They failed because Ukraine has proven to be a formidable opponent.
And because of NATO’s strong support.

We have been working to strengthen Ukraine’s cyber-defences for years.
With training, and information and intelligence sharing.

For example, Ukraine has access to NATO’s malware information sharing platform.
Where experts exchange information about threats and responses in real time

Cyber is a constantly contested space.
And the line between peace, crisis and conflict is blurred.

That is why NATO has taken the threat to cyberspace from state and non-state actors so seriously for so long.
And why we have taken determined steps to guard against cyber-attacks.

It is key to our collective defence.

Cyber activities can trigger our collective defence clause, Article 5.
The bedrock of our collective defence.
Where an attack on one Ally is an attack on all.

Cyber is now a domain of operations, equal to those of land, sea, air and space.

And a number of Allies have offered the use of their national cyber-effects.

Through NATO’s Cyber Defence Pledge,
Allies have increased their investments in cyber,
and enhanced their skills and capabilities to implement their national strategies.

NATO also conducts regular exercises.
Including our flagship Cyber Coalition exercise in Estonia later this month.
The biggest exercise in the world.

Where more than forty Allies and partners will practice defending against a broad range of different cyber-attacks.

Our hosts, Italy and the United States, are both excellent examples of strong cyber defences.

Earlier this year, President Biden signed legislation to track cyber-attacks and ransomware payments across America.

So authorities can rapidly deploy resources to help those being attacked, spot trends and warn other potential victims.

And in May, Italy published its new National Cybersecurity Strategy,

Accompanied by several different initiatives such as the establishment of the National Cybersecurity Agency,

And the development of the Italian Cloud Strategy.
Examples of how Allies take this very seriously.

These, and many similar initiatives across the Alliance are making our nations stronger and more resilient to cyber-attacks.

NATO is a unique platform.
Where Allies share information, highlight concerns, exchange best practice and consider our collective responses.

In September, the North Atlantic Council strongly condemned the recent cyber-attack on Albania’s national information infrastructure,
while NATO staff went to Tirana and provided support.
Albania and other Allies attributed this attack to Iran.

This is an example of NATO Allies coming together and responding with one voice.

NATO also works closely with the European Union on cyber issues.

Our cyber defenders share information about cyber threats and take part in each other’s exercises.
Including NATO’s Cyber Coalition.

We also work closely with partner nations such as Ukraine and Georgia.

With our Indo-Pacific partners Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

And we also work closely with private companies, which have played a key role in defending Ukrainian cyberspace.

Starlink satellites enable secure communications and internet access.
Microsoft and Amazon were able to upload Ukraine’s government ministries to the cloud just as its servers were being targeted by Russian shelling.

YouTube and social media companies have blocked or restricted Russian state media and troll accounts.

Cooperation between governments and tech companies has increased significantly.

For instance, NATO and Microsoft exchange information to mitigate the effects of malware attacks on Allies and on Ukraine.

And we agreed at the Madrid Summit in June to take our partnership with industry further.
Expanding our cooperation to develop online standards and norms of behaviour.

Cyberspace should not be a ‘Wild West’ free-for-all.
All Allies agree that fundamental rights and international law apply just as much online as they do offline.
And that we need principles of responsible use that reflect our democratic values and human rights.

However, our competitors do not share our values.
And are using new technologies with no regard for human rights or international law.

In 1949, President Truman described NATO as “a shield against aggression and the fear of aggression.”

Today, that shield extends to cyberspace.

The threat from cyberspace is real, and it is growing.
That is why our Cyber Defence Pledge is so important.

So I call on Allies to recommit to cyber defence.
With more investment.
More expertise.
And enhanced cooperation.
This is a vital part of our collective defence.
And we are all in this together.

So I wish you all the best for your discussions today.

Your work here matters for the safety and security of our one billion citizens across Europe and North America.

So once again, thank you so much for having me here today.