NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warns of sharp rise in cyber attacks against military alliance

January 19, 2017 8:30 pm

Secretary General (Photo by AFP)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has warned of an increasing number of state-sponsored cyber attacks on the military alliance, saying members need to do more to boost online defense capabilities.
In an interview with the German daily Die Welt published on Thursday, Stoltenberg said that NATO saw a sharp increase in the number of attacks last year, adding that the attacks were ostensibly carried out by government-related entities and not individuals.  
“According to our latest evaluations, there was a monthly average of 500 threatening cyber attacks last year against NATO infrastructure that required intensive intervention from our experts … That’s an increase of 60 percent compared to 2015,” he said.
“Most of these attacks did not stem from private individuals but were sponsored by national institutions of other countries,” Stoltenberg added.
The top NATO official said the increasing threat has forced the organization to put the issue of cyber defense on the top agenda of its next summit in Brussels, adding that cyber attacks can undermine the defense readiness of NATO and hinder the work of armed troops on the battlefields.                                  
“All military activities are now based today on data transmission. If that fails to work, it can cause serious damage,” Stoltenberg said, adding, “We must boost our capabilities in this area.”
The head of the US-led military alliance did not elaborate on which states have orchestrated cyber attacks on NATO.
Germany, a key NATO member, has previously accused Russia as the main culprit, saying Russian hackers have on several occasions carried out such cyber attacks on NATO member states. Moscow has rejected the allegation.
American officials have also accused Russia of carrying out cyber attacks against US political organizations to help US President-elect Donald Trump win the election. Moscow has rejected the allegations as “baseless.” Trump himself has downplayed Russia’s alleged meddling in the US election.
Stoltenberg also downplayed anti-NATO rhetoric by Trump, saying that once the president-elect takes office, the United States “will continue to be fully committed to its security guarantees for NATO.”
The US president-elect caused worry in NATO when he described NATO as “obsolete” because it “wasn’t taking care of terror” during an interview published on Sunday.
“And the other thing is the countries aren’t paying their fair share so we’re supposed to protect countries,” he added, stressing this was unfair to the US.
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