Nato will respond with ‘conventional military assaults’ to future cyber attacks

Pierluigi Paganini July 10, 2017

NATO has warned that in the future any cyber attack against a member state could trigger a military response according to the mutual defence clause.

NATO has warned that in the future any cyber attack against a member state could trigger a military response according to the alliance’s Article 5, mutual defence clause.

The NATO announcement follows the massive NotPetya ransomware-based attacks that hit system worldwide. most of them in Ukraine.

The Petya ransomware hit systems in several industries, including banks, transport, telecommunications, and energy. Hackers Among the hardest hit were Ukr telecom, Dniproenergo, Ukrzaliznytsia, Kiev -Boryspil Airport, and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. Popular aircraft manufacturer Antonov was also reportedly hit.

According to NATO CCD COE, the recent massive attack based on NotPetya ransomware was powered by a “state actor.” The malware infected over 12,000 devices in around 65 countries, the malicious code hit major industries and critical infrastructure.


Experts from NATO CCD COE believe the attack was likely launched by a nation-state actor, or it was commissioned to a non-state actor by a state.  The attackers were well funded and the attack they conducted was very complex and expensive.

The experts observed that despite the operation was complex, the attackers did not spend much effort for managing the payments, a circumstance that suggests hackers were not financially motivated.

“The operation was not too complex, but still complex and expensive enough to have been prepared and executed by unaffiliated hackers for the sake of practice. Cyber criminals are not behind this either, as the method for collecting the ransom was so poorly designed that the ransom would probably not even cover the cost of the operation,” NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence (CCD COE), said in a press release on Friday.
This declaration could have serious consequences, the cyber attack could be interpreted as an act of war, and can trigger a military response of the alliance under the Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, the principal of collective defense.

According to the NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, NATO is threatening to respond to cyber-attacks against member states with a conventional military strike.

Stoltenberg highlighted that that NATO leaders officially recognized the cyberspace as the fifth domain of a warfare so the alliance could respond with conventional weapons in case of a powerful cyber attack.

“The attack in May and this week just underlines the importance of strengthening our cyber defences and that is what we are doing. We exercise more, we share best practices and technology, and we also work more and more closely with allies,” said Stoltenberg.

“Nato helps Ukraine with cyber defence and has established a trust fund to finance programs to help Ukraine improve its cyber defences. We will continue to do this and it is an important part of our cooperation,”.

The Ukrainian secret service launched an investigation to attribute the attack, the local authorities believe that a Russian APT was behind the attack. At the time I was writing, the Ukrainian authorities were not able to attribute the attack to Russia.

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Pierluigi Paganini 

(Security Affairs – NATO, Petya)

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