NATO readies for growing cyberthreats

It’s hard to believe we’re not far away from the 20th anniversary of the dreaded Y2K bug that put fear into every technology professional’s life at the turn of the millennium. The Y2K bug was initially thought to be a major safety threat because experts claimed there were significant flaws in the software of computers that controlled many critical systems such as air traffic control, the electric grid, banking, traffic lights and other key resources. In hindsight, the threat was over-hyped. None of the dire predictions came true – partly due to preparation, but mostly because such systems were not so heavily automated and had human intervention to prevent catastrophe.

Unfortunately, no vertical market has remained immune from the harmful aftermath of a successful cyber-attack or data breach. The situation is only exacerbated with regards to the Internet of Things (IoT), as the sheer volume of these devices continues to grow with each passing year. The IoT device explosion has seen a proportionate growth of the cyber threat landscape due to the new attack vectors that many insecure IoT devices can introduce into the ecosystem. Furthermore, the industrial markets that comprise our critical infrastructure have routinely found themselves in the crosshairs of potential cyber-criminals and data thieves.

Recently, the U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Marcel Lettre declared that cyberattacks that result in the destruction of critical infrastructure or serious economic impact should be closely evaluated as to whether or not they would be considered an act of war. NATO too wants to be ready to respond to the attacks on critical infrastructure.

A three-day annual exercise, dubbed Cyber Coalition, is pulling together officials from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its partners in Estonia, which suffered what’s widely believed to be the first state-sponsored cyber assault on another country in 2007 amid a row with Russia over relocating a Soviet-era monument. They’re playing out fictional scenarios in which alliance networks and civilian systems are under assault.

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