The new realities of cyber threats and interconnected networks have forced one of the world's top military alliances to make necessary adjustments to its doctrine and operations.
As part of this effort, the alliance is not only focusing on systems and networks but people as well. "We will ensure that our Alliance is cyber aware, cyber trained, cyber secure and cyber-enabled," it said.
Concrete steps member nations pledged to take include developing a full range of capabilities to defend national networks and infrastructure, allocating adequate resources to strengthen cyber defenses, improving understanding of threats in the cyber domain, enhancing skills and awareness, fostering cyber education and training and expediting implementation of cyber defense commitments, especially among systems NATO depends upon.
NATO's updated cyber defense posture and its recognition of cyberspace as an operational domain of warfare will both "improve NATO's ability to protect and conduct operations across these domains and maintain our freedom of action and decision, in all circumstances," the fact sheet said. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also reaffirmed this position during a July 11 Twitter Q&A.
Despite these positive steps the coalition has taken, some still have criticisms regarding NATO's cyber posture.
While the report's authors note declaring cyberspace an operational domain of warfare is a step in the right direction enabling defined doctrines and procedures, they maintain the critical component will be aligning cyber defense policy with "the overall, conventional, strategic posture as detailed in the Strategic Concept." The Strategic Concept is a document adopted in 2010 and serves as NATO's roadmap for the next decade reconfirming the commitment to defend member states.
The recognition of cyberspace as a domain of war will also provide a better framework to manage resources, skills, capabilities and coordinate decisions, NATO's fact sheet said. NATO develops targets for allied countries' implementation of national cyber defense capabilities with the goal of maintaining a unified, common approach. Alliance members in doctrinal documents say they aim to agree upon further cyber defense targets in 2017; progress on the delivery of the cyber defense pledged will be reviewed at the next NATO summit.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET and Fifth Domain.