U.S. European Command, NATO Boost Cyber Defenses
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 18, 2012 Preparing a good defense to deter cyber attacks ranks among his top concerns, Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, the commander of U.S. European Command, told the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.
“In many ways, cyber is the threat I worry about most going forward over the long-term,” said Stavridis, who also serves as NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe. “And the reason is, the potential for damage to our fundamental, societal way of life … compared to our level of preparation.”
“In the world of cyber, we are on the beach at Kitty Hawk, [N.C.],” Stavridis said, referring to the Wright Brothers’ famous first flight that heralded the birth of aviation. “We are just at the beginning.”
But he insisted that the United States and its friends and partners dealing with cyber threats don’t have the luxury of time the aviation industry enjoyed as it was being advanced.
“We don’t have 100 years in cyber,” he said. “We are so vulnerable. We have to take steps today to bring order to the chaotic world of cyber. And I think that is going to be not only a security challenge, but also a societal challenge.”
Today’s economies, information and communications industries, transportation networks, essential services, critical infrastructure and governance all hinge on cyberspace, Stavridis told Congress during testimony in early March.
And, although while governments, corporations and organizations of all kinds have become increasingly reliant on network security and cyber defenses to keep modern society functioning, hackers, spies and terrorists are increasing their abilities to reach through cyberspace to conduct damaging and even devastating attacks, the admiral said.
As a result, modern militaries view cyberspace as a likely battleground in future conflicts, Stavridis said. He pointed to a “glimpse of this future” within the European theater, citing the cyber attacks that occurred in Estonia in 2007 and Georgia in 2008.
“Recognizing this challenge, European Command views cyberspace as a tremendous opportunity for theater outreach to engage, learn and forge our cyber defenses stronger together,” he said.
The good news, Stravridis said, is that NATO members are among the world’s most cyber-savvy nations, with growing capability to stand up to cyber threats.
He noted the new NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia, a country that’s still reeling from a series of devastating attacks five years ago that impacted its parliament, banks, ministries and media outlets. This nascent organization, with a focus on collaboratively building alliance members’ cyber defenses, “is bringing together policy actors across the military side of the spectrum,” the admiral told the House Armed Services Committee in February.
Stavridis pointed to other efforts to enhance cyber defenses. For example, he said, there’s the computer incident response center that’s being built in the NATO headquarters’ operations center.
Eucom and NATO are focused on beefing up their cyber defenses, Stavridis told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March.
“So I am pushing them very hard in this direction,” he said, noting that’s an effort that NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has joined.
“We are in the process of catching up,” Stavridis said. “We have hard work to do in cyber.”