Col. Dimitrios Choupis, Phd, GRC A, Παρασκευή 29 Αυγ 2014


NATO has already recognized the significance of the cyber threats that face the Alliance since the cyber attacks on Estonia in 2007. Afterwards, NATO has began establishing a relative policy[1] by implementing various objectives in order to improve the Alliance’s ability to prevent, deter, defend against and recover cyber attacks, which are rapidly evolving both in frequency and sophistication.

The new NATO policy on Cyber Defense provides a solid foundation from which Allies can take work forward on cyber security. Following this roadmap, NATO will defend its own networks by implementing a coordinated approach to cyber defense that encompasses planning objectives and capability development aspects for NATO’s own structures and NATO members’, in addition to response mechanisms in the event of a cyber attack. As we look toward 2020 and beyond, it is crystal clear that there are significant challenges, issues and functions that might need to be taken under consideration. However, the answer to these future requirements, is a comprehensive mid-term strategic framework, through which the Alliance will guide its activities and will react to all changes and advances in technology, in order to actively meet both the threats and opportunities.

NATO’s Cyber Defense Policy and Action Plan Overview

On 8 Jun 2011, NATO Defense Ministers approved a revised NATO policy on Cyber Defense, in order to provide a solid foundation methodology which Allies can take work forward on cyber security. The document itself clarifies NATO’s priorities and NATO’s efforts in cyber defense, including which networks to protect and the way this can be achieved. The document is coupled with an implementation tool (an Action Plan) which represents a detailed living document (continuously updated), with specific tasks and activities. Through this framework, NATO will ensure that it is at the forefront of developments in cyber space and maintains the proper flexibility to meet the issues and challenges posed by cyber threats. More briefly, NATO’s Cyber Defense Policy set out the “What” and Cyber Defense Action Plan details the “How” it will be achieved.

All NATO structures[2], including NATO’s agencies and bodies abroad, will be under centralized protection. New cyber defense minimum military requirements will be applied, either in national networks that are connected to NATO or process NATO information, in order to meet the objective for a secure infrastructure. Additionally, this policy will integrate cyber defense considerations into NATO structures and planning procedures. Moreover, it will focus on prevention, resilience and defense of critical cyber assets of NATO and Allies. Last but not least, NATO will provide, if needed, coordinated assistance for an ally or allies to achieve the minimum level of requirements for cyber defense and also to reduce vulnerabilities of their national critical infrastructures, including a situation in which they are victims of a cyber attack.

Principle cyber defense initiatives and a significant number of practical steps are under implementation. In a multilevel approach, different NATO organizational elements, bodies and committees are responsible for implementation of the planning of capabilities and assisting Allies. It is indicative, that a NATO Computer Incident Response Capability (NCIR) will be established by the end of 2012, including the dispatch of a Rapid Reaction Team (RRT)[3], in a role of NATO’s “cyber warriors”. Moreover, NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence (CCDCoE)[4] in close cooperation with Allies, is encouraged to provide expertise, support and research and training, also in parallel with NATO’s existing schools.

NATO Moving Towards 2020 Cyber Space Challenges

While the prediction of cyberspace future landscape is quite difficult, NATO must seek to define the potential threats and understand the forces that are formulating the Alliance future of Cyberspace in order to lead influence and adapt to these changes. However, in order for NATO to form an effective cyber defense strategy, a significant number of future challenges need, to be taken into account. These challenges are outlined below:

  • The aggregation of data in NATO’s network cloud computing,[5] combined with remote and distributed management, will create additional security challenges and will complicate today’s traditional techniques. It is indicative that this network cloud, more or less, will be an “internet of things” and the threat actors could probably use highly available on-line tools to hack key infrastructure in this cloud-based computing operational environment.
  • The “on-line user based” concept, also in NATO’s cloud network, will expand in order to include many and smart mobile platforms and devices, capable of using the web exchanging (collaboration), or transfer sensitive classified information without the need of intervention (virtualization). This technologically advanced “mobile network”, can expose NATO’s sensitive data and processes to threat actors. “Botnets”[6] one of today’s most potent IT threat, will evolve dramatically and they will incorporate more and more, these internet-enabled devices.
  • Cyber attacks will be increasingly sophisticated, undetectable by the existing antivirus solutions. No single organization, including NATO, could respond effectively, in a real time basis, without a comprehensive and synchronized strategy. This cyber exploitation will have as prerequisite for the Alliance, an advanced situational awareness and incident response and also to professionalize its workforce, in order to succeed.
  • This network centric infrastructure with increased integration, collaboration and virtualization, in parallel with Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) equipment, will increase agility in both hardware and software systems. From users’ point of view, new software operating systems and tools will be applied and this will also affect the cyber security risk. The cybercriminals will create malicious software less effectively for a big variety of software platforms or they will continue to focus primarily to devices and platforms which include “traditional operating systems”. This “post-Windows” cyberspace environment will be also for NATO, a new technological challenge in its global role.
  • Globalization of the information in the commercial marketplace and its close relation with NATO’s procurement supply chain will provide increased opportunities for those to intent on harming NATO, by penetrating the acquisition chain, in order to gain unauthorized access to data, alter data or interrupt communications. As an effect, a great exposure of risk level also in this area will be posed.
  • Strong international collaboration will be established beyond strict geographic boundaries. This “web-interrelation” between NATO bodies globally, NATO’s nations, NATO’s partners and not-state actors will grow exponentially the volume of cyber attacks. This new reality in combination with the development of cheap cellular-mobile internet based communications (e.g. mobile spam) will offer a fundamental shift to NATO’s vulnerability.
  • The integrated nature of cyberspace between the Alliance’s military and civilian operations and activities will also complicate NATO’s role to prevent and manage “collateral damage” or “side effects”[7] consequences in NATO networks by execution of an offensive cyber attack operation by a NATO’s nation or by another cyber actor. This will create a new type of threat (“collateral cyber casualties”) because the high level of integration between the networks.
  • Acceptable norms of behavior and appropriate legal frameworks will be unclear in intra-alliance level.[8] This lack of non existence of law agreements or standardization security procedures will be remain a continuous and dynamic process for NATO and NATO nations, because of the “unpredictable” illegal behavior of the cyber criminals.
  • Significant real-time requirements and extremely complex cyber security risk management and threat tracking software application tools, will be in use on a 24/7 basis in order to minimize the probability of having incidents in the Alliance’s networks. This rigorous, multilevel and comprehensive predictive analysis and response to virtual threats will be adapted also to NATO’s networks.
  • An exploitation and evolution of Research and Development projects on the cyber defense area will be implemented, not only within NATO bodies, but mainly in NATO nations, the private sector and academia. On the other hand, threat actors including the non state cyber criminals,[9] will also invest in this area, mainly with the help of members of the younger generation, who are capable of writing malicious code for the new platforms.

Tracking the Future Through NATO’s 2020 Cyberdefense Strategy Project

To help NATO nations, partners and policymakers to lead the Alliance’s future efforts to address effectively and efficiently cyber threats, complex challenges and insecurity, a certain number of recommendations/initiatives, are proposed through this paper[10] and they are summarized below:

  • NATO should adopt a comprehensive cyber security strategy to meet the Alliance’s vision and to achieve the future goals for a safe, secure and resilient cyber environment. This “early warning-early response” strategy is the medium to long term planning process, through which NATO will plan its future, to a 5 to 10 years resource plan. Through this strategy, NATO will prioritize activities, set milestones and track progress, in building cyber defense warning capabilities with performance metrics to measure the progress. In parallel, an updated network centric security baseline plan, a cyber intelligence plan and a cyber defense risk management plan must be implemented and run, in order for the Alliance to ensure the integrity of the classified and also unclassified networks and the data they contain. The implemented Action Plan should be included in this strategy’s goals and objectives, in order for NATO, simultaneously and coherently, to face, current but mainly future, challenges and threats in cooperation with its member existing cyber security strategies.
  • Despite the increasing calls for fiscal austerity, significant growth of cyber security resources must be endorsed, from an investment point of view, for the upcoming years. This must be depicted clearly in the NATO’s strategy goals and objectives. These funds must be focused on R&D projects, software tools, recruitment of personnel and consultants and, last but not least, training and testing facilities. Moreover, a significant amount of indirect cost must also be included for development of new or upgrading the existing network architectures, for implementation of new “leap ahead” high risk projects in cooperation with private sector and NATO’s subject agencies and finally for spending resources to recover the network after a possible cyber attack. An indicative minimum amount of 25% of IT and communications budgets should be focused on cyber security. In any case all the previous initiatives, must be combined with an “out of the box thinking” 12-18 months acquisition process and a “secure and transparent partnership roadmap with industry”, far away from the existing NATO bureaucratic acquisition policy. This is a prerequisite, in order for NATO to respond effectively to the future complex global marketplace, to provide a NATO-wide data integrity in the future computing cloud and to standardize the access control and policy de-conflictions, in coordination with its members states, partners, agencies and related industry companies.
  • NATO should create a 24/7 cross-alliance cyber defense operating network, through which headquarters and alliance bodies, agencies and “partner-companies” will provide cyber response services for NATO and will share in real-time information regards cyber threats. This live inter-alliance internet network information with member nations cyber ops centers and other cyber-defense partners should be exchanged under an pre-approved, trusted and real-time response mechanism, to enhance situational awareness and collaboration against cyber threats. This is will be enforced also through information sharing procedures from cyber counterintelligence actors, by deploying an instruction detection system of sensors and software tools across Alliance’s networks, in order to identify and track unauthorized users attempt to gain access to networks. In this new cyber oriented network, related initiatives like the implementation of a new on-line information assurance policy, the development of a new cyber centric C4ISR target architecture , the acquisition of new network software tools and the activation of a “cyber-warriors” real-time response cell in all core critical infrastructures, need to be taken into consideration.
  • No single individual or organization, including NATO, is aware of all cyber related R&D activities. Collaboration and coordination in R&D activities is the answer and the key, for NATO in order to respond effectively to future cyber threats. It is this initiative, which will develop and establish a coherent approach with regards NATO sponsored, NATO nations sponsored and “cyber-partner companies” sponsored classified and unclassified projects. Through this process, the Alliance will identify research gaps, will prioritize funding and will redirect effort and responsibilities in order to avoid duplications and to get full value for strategic investment. Moreover, NATO must develop and endure a technologically skilled and cyber-savvy workforce through education and training and maintain an effective pipeline of future skilled employees, similar to 1970’s effort to secure NATO infrastructures and classified networks, in order to meet the Cold War’s challenges. Through this dynamic R&D approach, NATO in cooperation with NATO’s member governments and NATO’s R&D Agencies, will be always one level above and one step in front of the future cyber threats and challenges and will ensure technological superiority and scientific advantage.
  • NATO should create a cyber security legislation and audit mechanism, in line with the relevant strategies of NATO nations[11] in order to address crucial cyber defense issues through transparent security processes, norms and standards. Through this process member state governments will agree on the legal elements of a cyber attack that would elevate the NATO response from article 4 to article 5. NATO’s cyber defense tasked personnel and authorities will conduct and monitor an audit, in order to address which actors including nations, national organizations, private sector and non-state actors share the “common approved legal cyber security environment”. It is crystal clear, that in this future complex cyber security environment, only approved procedures (“rules of cyber engagement”) are needed. These standardization mechanisms must include shared security interests, NATO collective actions, nations and individuals role regarding concepts like “the need to share” and “the responsibility to protect” cyber commons. This NATO legal engagement with a variety of international actors and stakeholders will produce new cyber security standardization agreements, codes of conduct and international standards for companies dealing with cyber security. This legally oriented interaction must be planned among all levels of the Alliance, NATO members intra-governmental ministries, nations NATO’s partners and the private sector also. As a result, the Alliance will enhance legal effectiveness and transparency on the cyber security collective but also shared responsibility.


Despite the productive efforts and significant progress NATO must do much more to outpace all the above future threats and challenges in cyber space. As the world’s premier collective entity, NATO has a responsibility to take all adequate measures to protect efficiently and effectively NATO networks and provide assistance to Allies when needed. NATO requires an “early warning-early response” cyber defense strategy in order to articulate the framework to 2020.The goal for the Alliance must be to keep also in future, technological superiority in close cooperation and coordination with the member nations, in order to be able to respond faster than vulnerabilities and threats will be exploited. Through this roadmap the Alliance will meet its vision for a safe, secure and resilient cyberspace and will establish a strong foundation for all efforts in the future full of challenges complex cyberspace environment.


  1. Leaflet, “Defending the Networks”, The NATO policy on Cyber Defence,04 Oct 2012,
  2. Web-page, “NATO and the cyber defence”,
  3. News, 13-3-2012,
  4. Web-page,
  5. Article, ‘Cyber crime outlook 2020”, Kaspersky Lab, 24-2-2011, Moscow,
  6. Conference report -publication, “Emerging Cyber threats 2012”, GTCSS, Tbilisi
  7. Project Study, ‘America’s Cyber Future”, Center for a new American Security, June 2011, Kristin M. Lord and Travis Sharp
  8. Nato Defence College Research Paper N.76-May 2012, “Five years after Estonia’s cyber attacks: Lessons Learned for NATO”, Vincent Joubert
  9. Article, “Europolice to lead international Cyber Security Protection Alliance consultation into the future of Cyber crime ”, 19-7-2012, (London and the Hague).
  10. NATO nations cyber security strategies, as reference, listed below:
  • USA: “Department of Defence Strategy for operating in Cyberspace”,
  • EU: “Proposal on a European Strategy for Internet Security”,
  • GBR: “The UK Cyber Security Strategy”,
  • CAN: “Canada’s cyber security Strategy”,
  • DEU: “Cyber Security Strategy for Germany”,
  • NLD: “ The Defence Cyber Strategy”,
  • JPN: “Information Security Strategy for Protecting the Nation”,
  • RUS: “Conceptual Views Regarding the Activities of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in the Information Space”,
  • FRA: “Informations systems Defence and Security.France’s Strategy”,

  Webpage, CCD COE, National Strategies and Policies, 28 Oct 2012, 

 Αναφορά στο άρθρο: Choupis Dimitrios, Challenges and Objectives for the National Cyber-Security Strategy Beyond 2020, Journal of Computations & Modelling, vol.4, no.1, Scienpress Ltd, 2014 ή Choupis Dimitrios, Challenges and Objectives for the National Cyber-Security Strategy Beyond 2020,, 29 Aug 2014.