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09 9 2016

Scale of cyber threat requires partnership says NATO

Ransomware, cyber jihadism and emerging attackers were some of the topics of day 2 of NATO's cyber conference, NIAS, held in Mons, Belgium on 7-8 September, with over 1,300 senior NATO and Industry delegates attending.

The second day of the conference focused on two themes: top National representatives outlining their national cyber security plans and Industry experts discussing emerging trends in cyberspace.

One such trend is the rapidly-growing scale of the cyber defence challenge.

"During the span of NIAS [the conference] one million new devices will be connected to the Internet," said John Stewart of Cisco Sytems, who was voted best Industry speaker at the conference.

He added: "Half a billion pieces of software were downloaded last year… Five terabytes of data will be generated per person within the next four years, all that data needs to be thought through now."

Simplify, focus on the difficult tasks

But the conference also offered notes of optimism. "70-90% of cyber attacks are preventable though basic cyber hygiene," said Ian West, Chief of Cyber Security at the NATO Communications and Information Agency, which organized the event.

In addition to the powerful effect of getting the basics right, another recommendation was to focus on automating basic tasks and empowering regular IT staff to engage in basic cyber defence and maintenance, allowing top defenders to focus on the most difficult tasks.

This, alongside user education, is a core focus of the US Department of Defence's strategy said Richard Hale, stressing the size of the challenge for the Pentagon: "We have more IT workers than we have Marines."

The ever-shifting nature of the battle was underlined several times. "If you build an impenetrable fortress wall, the attacker will find another, they will find a tunnel underneath," stressed one expert.

The discussion set the context for what will be a major upgrade of NATO cyber defences in the 2017-2019 timeframe. The first contracts are expected to be put out to tender in 2017.

"We're about to embark on major refresh, worth about 70 million Euro," stressed RADM Thomas Daum, NCI Agency Chief of Staff. "Today, cyber innovation is driven by the private sector. Several Nations have already embarked along the cyber domain route with industrial partners. This is why we want to have the conversation with you early, before we come to the actual acquisition stage."

Eight information-sharing agreements

At the conference, NATO emphasized the progress in the NATO-Industry Cyber Partnership, with eight partnership agreements on information-sharing now signed and tangible practical work on threat vector analysis.

The conference followed decision at the Summit in Warsaw (8-9 July 2016), where Allies recognized cyberspace as an operational domain and committed to continue strengthening their cyber defence capabilities.

The next edition of NIAS will take place on 20-21 September 2017, save the date today!

Scale of cyber threat requires partnership says NATO