A Call for a Global Cyber Alliance

A “cyber NATO” is needed to combat the growing cyber threats facing the world, recommended Toomas Hendrik Ilves in an Oct. 5 opinion piece in the Washington Post. This global cyber alliance should be open to all democracies not just those in NATO, he said.

“Until defense of democracy in the digital era is taken up by governments collectively, both in NATO and outside the alliance, liberal democracies will remain vulnerable to the cyberthreats of the 21st century,” he said.

He pointed not only to election tampering in the US and elsewhere by Russia, but to other recent cyber attacks including Russia’s targeting of NATO soldiers’ smartphones to gain information about troop activity and to intimidate soldiers.

Ilves said, “Such instances beg the question: What is ‘deterrence’ in the digital world? What is a ‘proportional response’ when a ship’s navigation system is hacked or a power plant shut down? What happens when it takes months to track down who was responsible for a debilitating attack on the financial system?”

Three European based organizations could help form the nucleus of a “cyber NATO,” he said.  They are:

NATO’s own Cooperative Cyberdefense Center of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia, which is open to non-NATO democracies.

Riga-based Strategic Communications Center of Excellence, another NATO initiative

The recently-opened European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats in Helsinki

“… the conceptual bases for international digital defense now exist. These centers deal with all of the threats — from infrastructure and hacking to manipulations of social media — that we have encountered in recent years across the board, often from the same list of usual suspects.”

Read the full opinion piece.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves served as the fourth president of Estonia from 2006 to 2016. During his tenure, Estonia suffered a massive cyber attack in 2007, believed to be orchestrated by the Russians.  In 2012, Ilves was the opening keynote the 3rd Annual Billington CyberSecurity Summit. He is currently a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

At the 3rd Billington International Cybersecurity Summit, Taimar Peterkop, Director General, Information System Authority, Republic of Estonia, will speak.