NATO’s Cyber Strategies and Wireless Warfare in the Information Age
Our daily routines are becoming increasingly dependent on a blooming cyberspace
or virtual reality as we may know it. Influencing major aspects our life, like
economy, health and education we need to be aware that recently cyberspace
challenges new domains: our personal and national security. In the last years, we’ve
witnessed a major increase in cyber attacks, situation that forced governments to
create space on their agenda for a new topic: the cyber security of their public and
For this reason, since 2002 small but consistent steps were taken by NATO in the
direction of strengthening their digital defences, everything culminating with the
recent Wales Summit declaration from the fall of 2014. The Wales Summit
represented a highlight in the continuous efforts of NATO to develop its cyber
security strategy. Coming as a result of an organic evolution, the summit underlined
the fact that cyber threats are now more dangerous than ever.
That is why, in the following article we will start by throwing light upon the strategic
importance of having a cyber strategy in place, continuing with the historical
developments that led to NATO’s recent concerns and making room on the same
time for identifying inherent flaws caused by the particularities of this newly
conquered frontier: the digital world.
In order to understand the particularities of a cyber strategy we will make use of the
The Tallinn Manual Process defines a cyber attack as a “cyber
operation, whether offensive or defensive, that is reasonably expected to cause
injury or death to persons or damage or destruction to objects.”
Reinforcing the major damage that a cyber attack can lead to, the article 72 of the
Wales Summit talks states that: “Their impact [ed.cyber attacks] could be as
harmful to modern societies as a conventional attack. We affirm therefore that cyber
defence is part of NATO's core task of collective defence.”
Furthermore, sensible problems arise from the vague definition of what constitutes
a cyber attack and more importantly how we can identify a devastating incident
that could trigger the Article 5 of the NATO Chart.
As the defense ministers confirmed NATO would rather “maintain ambiguity” about
responding to cyber attacks and it seems that is very unlikely that the North Atlantic
Council would invoke collective defense unless there were significant damage and
deaths, equivalent to kinetic military force.
Developments need to be done as Allies need to clarify what potential cyber
scenarios they would consider to cross the Article 5 threshold, specifying on the
same time the duties that individual members have in the case of a cyber attack.
Even though the moment when a cyber attack will lead to the loss of human lives
comparable in numbers with a conventional attack may seem a distant future, it
becomes clearer that the danger must not be taken lightly.
As Professor Michael
Schmitt, the Tallinn manual's editor, an international cyber law research and education standard,
stated, "I think just as a century ago we were trying to understand how aviation would impact the
laws of war, today we are in great need of sorting through these issues in the cyber world today".