CeBIT 2015: Cyber-threats 'prominent' in warfare
But investing in cyber-defence 'won't break the bank,' insists NATO cyber-defence officer
Cyber-threats are a "prominent" part of modern warfare, and governments around the world are beginning to take them into account when drawing up defence plans, according to Christian Liflander, an officer at NATO's Cyber Defence Section.
Speaking at a keynote session at the CeBIT trade show in Germany, Liflander said that current events such as the crisis in eastern Ukraine had brought cyber-security to new level of importance among NATO members. That crisis has yielded several cyber-attacks on European targets, allegedly from Russian-backed separatist groups in eastern Ukraine.
As a result, Liflander explained that NATO's leadership council no longer thinks solely in terms of tanks, ships, and planes - conventional military strategy - but also considers cyber-security just as much.
"When we look at this phenomenon, we realise you have to deal with the range of capabilities, taking cyber into account. It's certainly front and centre," he said.
"When you look at events, cyber is like a constant hum. When it comes to cyber being discussed by the strategic leadership, it will continue to be frequently active. We don't just talk about the boats and planes and tanks anymore; we also take cyber into consideration."
However, Liflander cautioned that creating suitable cyber-defence plans was "easier said than done". He said that, because of the fast-paced nature of the technology industry, it is difficult to secure the political will among NATO member states to keep up with cyber-security trends.
He even claimed that the cost of implementing cyber-security at the supranational level was not that high, in comparison to conventional defence spending. The problem, he said, was in bringing individual nation states up to an acceptable level of cyber-protection.
"To be honest, cyber doesn't really take that much of an investment - it doesn't break the bank. When we look at this phenomenon, it is not that resource-intensive, but it is challenging politically," he said.
"Yes, you have to invest, you have to put in place the necessary capabilities. At the state level, it's not about the money; it's about being able to operate as a whole of government and having clearly established lines of communications."
However, Liflander said that, even in times of austerity, he viewed investment in cyber-security as "wise".