U.S. to Offer Cyberwar Capabilities to NATO Allies, Acting to Counter Russia

Much like America’s nuclear capabilities, the formal declaration of cyber support can help serve as a military deterrent to other nations and adversaries

FILE PHOTO: The Pentagon in Washington, U.S., is seen from aboard Air Force One, March 29, 2018
FILE PHOTO: The Pentagon in Washington, U.S., is seen from aboard Air Force One, March 29, 2018Credit: \ Yuri Gripas/ REUTERS

Acting to counter Russia’s aggressive use of cyberattacks across Europe and around the world, the U.S. is expected to announce that, if asked, it will use its formidable cyberwarfare capabilities on NATO’s behalf, according to a senior U.S. official.

The announcement is expected in the coming days as U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis attends a meeting of NATO defense ministers on Wednesday and Thursday.

Katie Wheelbarger, the principal deputy assistant defense secretary for international security affairs, said the U.S. is committing to use offensive and defensive cyber operations for NATO allies, but America will maintain control over its own personnel and capabilities.

>>Israel launches three-year program to boost cybersecurity industry

The decision comes on the heels of the NATO summit in July, when members agreed to allow the alliance to use cyber capabilities that are provided voluntarily by allies to protect networks and respond to cyberattacks. It reflects growing concerns by the U.S. and its allies over Moscow’s use of cyber operations to influence elections in America and elsewhere.

“Russia is constantly pushing its cyber and information operations,” said Wheelbarger, adding that this is a way for the U.S. to show its continued commitment to NATO.

She told reporters traveling to NATO with Mattis that the move is a signal to other nations that NATO is prepared to counter cyberattacks waged against the alliance or its members.

Much like America’s nuclear capabilities, the formal declaration of cyber support can help serve as a military deterrent to other nations and adversaries.

>>Israel covertly contacted American cyber companies to purchase hacking tools, letter reveals

The U.S. has, for some time, considered cyber as a warfighting domain, much like air, sea, space and ground operations. In recent weeks the Pentagon released a new cybersecurity strategy that maps out a more aggressive use of military cyber capabilities. And it specifically calls out Russia and China for their use of cyberattacks.

China, it said, has been “persistently” stealing data from the public and private sector to gain an economic advantage. And it said Russia has use cyber information operations to “influence our population and challenge our diplomatic processes.” U.S. officials have repeatedly accused Moscow of interfering in the 2016 elections, including through online social media.

“We will conduct cyberspace operations to collect intelligence and prepare military cyber capabilities to be used in the event of a crisis or conflict,” the new strategy states, adding that the U.S. is prepared to use cyberwarfare along with other military weapons against its enemies when needed, including to counter malicious cyber activities targeting the country.

The document adds that the Pentagon will “work to strengthen the capacity” of allies and partners.

NATO has moved cautiously on offensive cyber capabilities. At the Warsaw Summit in 2016, allies recognized cyberspace as a warfighting domain. It has said that a computer-based attack on an ally would trigger NATO’s commitment to defend its members. And last year the alliance agreed to create a new cyber operations center. But the focus has always been on defending NATO networks and those of its members, not offensive cyberwar.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday that the defense ministers will have a working session this week to address cyber and other risks, and how allies can cooperate to counter such threats. He did not provide details.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

נתניהו עם כיפה שחורה על הראש נשען בשתי ידיו על הכותל

Israel Is Heading for Its Most 'Jewish' Election Ever

An El Al jet sits on the tarmac at John C. Munro International Airport in Hamilton, Thursday, in 2003.

El Al to Stop Flying to Toronto, Warsaw and Brussels

FILE PHOTO: A Star of David hangs from a fence outside the dormant landmark Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood in 2021.

American Judaism Is in Decline. That's Great News for American Jews

Crowds at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport, in April.

U.S. Official: West Bank Entry for Palestinian Americans Unrelated to Israeli Visa Waivers

Haaretz spoke with several people who said they had fled Ukraine, arrived in Israel,  and were asked to undergo DNA tests in order to establish paternity.

'My Jewish Grandmother Has a Number on Her Arm, Why Does Israel Greet Me This Way?'

People taking part in the annual "March of the Living" to commemorate the Holocaust, between the former death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland, four years ago.

It’s Not Just the Holocaust. Israel Is Failing to Teach the History of the Jews