NATO Enhances its Cybersecurity Capabilities

NATO Enhances its Cybersecurity Capabilities

NATO cybersecruity

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NATO does not have its own tanks, ships or aircraft, with a few exceptions such as the AWACS aircraft operated from Germany. However, when it comes to cyber defense, NATO has its own capability that defends its networks and maintains their operation in the face of adversarial actions. NATO’s network has a global footprint, and the alliance is responsible for its cyber defense. The member nations are responsible for their own national networks.

NATO has been recently doubling down on cyberspace defense with increased partnerships and new technology thrusts. Information exchanges on threats and solutions, coupled with research into artificial intelligence, are part of alliance efforts to secure its own networks and aid allies in the cybersecurity fight.

The alliance faces the double challenge of securing its own networks and information assets, as well as helping its member-nations improve their own national cyber resilience.

In the past, NATO viewed cybersecurity as somewhat of a technical challenge. But that perspective evolved over time as the cyberscape underwent changes. 

Unlike combat forces, cyber defenders are all NATO staff members. This force is not dependent on individuals loaned from member nations. Instead, it staffs its own personnel to form a core of cybersecurity expertise.

According to, NATO networks will have to be built and operated in ways that deny benefits to cyber attackers. This includes NATO being able to run networks in a degraded environment. The alliance must be certain that an operational commander is able to operate in cyberspace with the same freedom of maneuver available on land, at sea and in the air.

National cybersecurity resilience also presents the dichotomy of continuity and change. Member nations often face threats to their critical infrastructure or other soft elements in addition to hardened government networks. Attackers can be nation-states, organized criminals, individual hacktivists or even those working as proxies, although the vast majority of attacks are nonstate activities such as ransomware. “NATO’s role in helping allies improve national resilience will become even more critical,” claims Christian Lifländer, head of section, Cyber Defense, Emerging Security Challenges Division, NATO.

The alliance is looking at issues such as military supply chains, training and education, situational awareness and resourcing cyber defense. But Lifländer emphasizes that NATO does not want to fall into the trap of viewing cybersecurity as simply a technology issue. 

Lifländer offers that NATO is one of the most sophisticated cyber actors among international organizations, and that comes from both its mandate and its partnered approach.