NATO cyber defense center fights tide of hacking attempts
Written by Reuters, Thursday, 11 July 2013
NATO's cyber defense nerve center, operating from the alliance's operational headquarters at Mons in southern Belgium, monitors potential attacks on NATO computer systems installed at 55 locations around the world.
"Our intrusion detection systems handle something like 147 million suspicious events every day," director Ian West told reporters during a visit to NATO's computer incident response capability technical center on Wednesday, Reuters reports.
Attacks on NATO's systems range from hacking, attempts to implant malicious software and so-called denial of service attacks where a computer is bombarded with so much data that it collapses.
NATO analysts dealt with around 2,500 confirmed serious attacks on its computers last year, West said.
In an era where weapon systems and military operations increasingly depend on computers, there is a risk that hacking attacks could have fatal consequences for the alliance.
"The worst case scenario of a cyber attack for us could be loss of life ... If intelligence doesn't get through about an ambush, if notification doesn't get through about a security situation, then our troops' lives are at risk," West said.
Some attacks against NATO's computer networks have been successful, he said, although he declined to say whether hackers had succeeded in stealing confidential data.
The threats come from hacking activists, criminals and "hostile nation states", although West declined to say which countries are suspected.
In May, the Pentagon said China was using espionage to acquire technology to fuel its military modernization, for the first time accusing the Chinese of trying to break into U.S. defense computer networks. Beijing denied the allegation.
China hit back after fugitive spy agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of U.S. cyber spying, accusing Washington of hypocrisy.
Analysts among the cyber defense centre's 130-strong staff from 15 nations say the attacks on NATO defense systems are growing in number and sophistication.
"The majority of the attacks are conducted by 'spear phishing' emails," said Andrzej Dereszowski, a Polish engineer at the center, referring to attempts by hackers to get hold of passwords or other confidential information by posing as a legitimate organization.
"They try to entice the user to follow the links (in emails) by pretending to be from a legitimate source or even using another compromised organization to actually send emails from a real person from that organization," he said.
In the case of a serious hacking attempt, the centre's analysts will analyze malicious code used and try to find who is behind the attempt, West said.
If it needs help from police, NATO may tip off the country concerned, but it will not go after the hacker itself, he says. NATO's remit in the cyber area is purely defensive, not offensive.
NATO was alerted to the threat of cyber attacks in 2007, when Estonia's Internet network was paralyzed by an electronic attack that Estonia blamed on Russia.
Since then, NATO has given a much higher priority to cyber defense. NATO ministers agreed at a Brussels meeting last month to strengthen the organization's cyber defenses.
The alliance is beefing up the capabilities of the Mons cyber defense center, including creating rapid reaction teams to help protect NATO's own computer systems and an around-the-clock response to incidents.
Top stories this week
- Airbus talking to SAAF on A400M, A330MRTT and C295
- South African remotely piloted aircraft regulations become operational on July 1
- All is not well in the Department of Military Veterans - DA
- Mapisa-Nqakula wishes for a defence budget that is two percent of GDP
- Problem areas for Seriti Commission named by retired police general
Paramount's Anti-Poaching and K9 Academy scoops top global, South African awards for best PR campaign
by Paramount Group, 22 May 2015
The company was awarded a Gold Sabre in the Geographic Category for Africa for Paramount's K9 Anti-Poaching Awareness Campaign.
Saab receives order for artillery ammunition
by Saab, 20 May 2015
Work on the SEK 114 million order will be performed by Saab's subsidiary, Saab Bofors Dynamics Switzerland.
Airbus Defence and Space launches satellite data management solution for machine-to-machine networks
by AIRBUS Defence & Space, 5 May 2015
The satellite data management solution for machine-to-machine networks provides visibility and control of satellite data in a single multi-device solution.
Upgraded PS-05/A radar gives Gripen C/D extended performance, operating range
by Saab, 29 April 2015
The PS-05/A Mk4's hardware configuration with a new radar back-end gives improved radar performance and operational range, says Saab.
Saab signs contract with Brazil on weapon acquisition for Gripen NG
by Saab, 28 April 2015
The total order value for the Gripen NG weapon acquisition by the Brazilian Ministry of Defence is approximately $245 million.
Nautic Africa acquires Anchor Boat Shop
by Nautic Africa, 24 April 2015
Established nearly 80 years ago, the boat producer holds the exclusive rights for Yamaha engine sales in Africa.