Warfare With Malware: NATO Faced With Rising Flood of Cyberattacks
The number of cyberattacks perpetrated against NATO is on the rise, say experts at alliance operational headquarters, with most of them apparently originating with intelligence services in Russia and China. “Each day, we are seeing up to 30 significant attacks on our digital networks or on individual computers, mostly by way of emails infected by spyware and sent to individual NATO employees,” Lieutenant General Kurt Herrmann told SPIEGEL ONLINE on the sidelines of an informational seminar at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) located in Mons, Belgium.
Herrmann heads up a unit of 120 NATO computer experts whose task is protecting sensitive data belonging to the alliance from cyberattacks. The unit, called the NATO Communication and Information Systems Services Agency, or NCSA for short, collects details on all attacks that target NATO information systems. It was founded in 2004, has been operational since 2005 and is to be further expanded next year. Two years ago, the NATO alliance officially identified the danger of cyberattack against member states as a strategic threat.
Herrmann is concerned about recent developments. His experts, he says, have noted “a quantitative, but also a qualitative, increase” in the virtual attacks targeting the alliance. In many cases, emails carrying the hidden spyware are a mixture of classic intelligence service work and hacker software. In many cases, attackers have made the effort to find out personal details about the target so as to make their mails more convincing. When the recipient opens the attachments, a piece of software known as a Trojan installs itself on the computer and begins transferring data to an overseas server.