July 24, 2021

NATO cyber attacks: attacks on the Internet, threats in space

Analysis

Status: 16.06.2021 9:07 a.m.

Three rounds of talks are planned at the meeting of Biden and Putin in Geneva. Among other things, Biden wants to address security problems that are increasingly worrying Western partners – on the Internet and in space.

From Michael Schneider,
ARD studio Brussels

NATO and the US speak of “malicious cyber activities” and “large-scale disinformation campaigns”. There are plenty of examples of this: the hacking attack on the largest gasoline pipeline in the United States in May, which temporarily led to fuel shortages. Campaigns in social networks that influence public opinion before elections. Or attacks on government networks with the aim of siphoning them off. Not to mention the vulnerability of hospitals or power plants.

A nightmare for the western states, which have to get used to this new form of threat first – and are looking for those responsible. The western partners increasingly suspect the origin in Russian hacker factories that work on behalf of the Kremlin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin does not want to hear about it and firmly rejects these allegations. He is demanding evidence of the allegations. In case of doubt, the presumption of innocence applies. But the USA in particular consider the evidence to be sufficient to strike a sharper note than Moscow. Before the joint meeting in Geneva, US President Joe Biden formulated red lines: If Putin continues to pursue such a policy of cyber activity, Washington will “respond appropriately”.

Alliance case is expanded

NATO is also looking for appropriate answers to a diffuse threat situation. The military alliance is already preparing for increased attacks in cyberspace. At the NATO summit earlier this week, a new Allied strategy was discussed. The goal is to ensure strong technical capabilities and joint military planning to repel such an attack. This is what NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. This also means that the allies should exchange information more closely on digital attacks and discuss the political implications with one another.

The alliance no longer only looks at classic threats by land, sea or air, as NATO knows from the past. It has already raised cyberspace to a further field of action; there are digital defense mechanisms in the member states.

In the event of an attack on the network, the allies can even declare an alliance case. The procedure under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty ensures the support of the other partners. Now the article is to be expanded and in future also cover attacks in space. Stoltenberg clarified that no weapons would then be stationed in space. Rather, it is about fending off serious attacks on satellites or other capacities in space and reacting quickly.

Strategies for an unpredictable world

With this, the military alliance wants to overcome the gray area that has existed so far in such attacks. Because the alliance case still only relates to attacks in North America or Europe, decentralized threats are only gradually being recorded.

By moving them more into focus, NATO wants to prepare for the challenges of the 21st century. The orientation of the alliance has to change because reality is changing, as Secretary General Stoltenberg sees it. The security situation has become more challenging, the world more unpredictable, and power struggles are increasing. Also on the net and in space.