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09 9 2015

NCI Agency Pilot Project Reveals Key Lesson on Strengthening NATO Cyber Defence

In a major step toward developing new models for NATO-industry cooperation on cyber defence, the NCI Agency recently conducted a Cyber Security Incubator Pilot Project, and concluded that greater mutual understanding through real-time collaboration with industry can speed the integration of innovative solutions into the Alliance's cyber defences.

Through the incubator, NATO, industry, and academic participants worked together on defining challenges and investigating innovative solutions in the areas of big data and data fusion, cyber defence situational awareness, and mobile security. This allowed the Alliance and its private sector partners to gain more clarity into the other's view of specific cyber challenges that are highly relevant to NATO.

Speak the same language
Demonstration projects and interactive workshops revealed a key initial lesson: it is imperative to "speak the same language" on cyber defence in order for NATO and industry to work together effectively. Different organizations or companies often attach different meanings to the vocabulary of cyber defence, including terms such as "incidents," "threats," or "assets." Discussion forums and side-by-side collaboration through the pilot project led to better industry understanding of the terminology and concepts NATO uses in communicating its cyber defence requirements. It also opened the opportunity for industry to discuss gaps in their solutions with respect to NATO requirements and to identify new ways to use existing solutions. These efforts can make NATO networks more resilient in the face of cyber threats: sharper industry insight into NATO's cyber defence context combined with better NATO understanding of industry solutions can create a virtuous cycle of efficient communication leading to faster development of cyber solutions more relevant to NATO's needs. This harnesses the widely-recognized idea in the high tech sector that technology companies often improve their products alongside their customers.

NATO Industry Cyber Partnership
The combined dynamics of fast-evolving cyber tactics and dramatic growth in commercial innovation with military applications in the cyber domain have resulted in the need for new approaches to cyber defence. The Cyber Security Incubator Pilot Project is one of NATO's first initiatives to address these trends and marks a significant milestone in the development of the new NATO Industry Cyber Partnership (NICP). Alliance leaders endorsed the NICP at the Wales Summit last year and launched it at the NATO Information Assurance Symposium 2014, recognizing that NATO and industry face shared risks in cyberspace, and that addressing these challenges requires new frameworks for action.

Incubator pilot project
The NCI Agency developed the cyber security incubator concept with the aim of exploring a new model for cooperation between NATO and industry partners that could decrease the time to develop responses to NATO's cyber security challenges. The incubator pilot project identified an approach to bring rapid results from academia and industry to NATO, and discussions are underway to determine how this framework could be extended to integrate these ideas into NATO's IT environment in a timeframe that keeps pace with evolving cyber threats. This is likely to be the target of a second stage of the incubator.

Upcoming events
There will be two opportunities to learn more about the Cyber Security Incubator Pilot Project during the upcoming NATO Information Assurance Symposium (NIAS15) in Mons. NCI Agency representatives will present lessons learned from the pilot project on Wednesday, 16 September during the NATO Industry Cyber Partnership workshop on "Innovation in Cyber Security Research." Industry and academic contributors to the project will present their work under the incubator at the NIAS15 Expo's NATO Cyber Zone.