Cyber attacks are now considered the fifth dimension of warfare after space, sea, land and air, according to NATO’s Director for Policy and Planning Jamie Shea.
Speaking March 22 in Brussels to a Security and Defence Agenda debate, Shea said there are people in the strategic community who say cyber attacks now will serve the same role in initiating hostilities as air campaigns played in the 20th century, DefenseNews reported.
NATO has learned that cyber attacks are very effective for about 36 hours, after which patches are put in place and their effectiveness diminishes rapidly, Shea said. He also pointed to military-system vulnerability.
“The more we multiply [software and other] functions, the more we offer options for our systems to be penetrated and military systems are not immune to this,” he said.
NATO suffers about 100 cyber attacks daily, which teaches the organization to respond to threats and take preventative measures, Shea said. He also asked whether countries should adopt a more defensive policy or envision some kind of retaliatory cyber-attack policy, or use other military means.
The United States and the European Union must work together in this field, and harmonizing its approaches would improve efficiency, said Agnes Hankiss, who sits on the European Parliament’s Subcommittee for Security and Defence.
Greg Day, director of McAfee’s security strategy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, warned that slicing security spending due to the financial crisis risked increasing the vulnerability to cyber attack.
“We are becoming ever more reliant on technology, but we are not necessarily keeping pace with our security investment,” he said.
Although cyber threats can cause mass disruption, Shea argued that the threat should not be overhyped and that the danger from weapons of mass destruction remains much greater.