NATO to create its own cyber defense center

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced plans to install a new cyber defense center at its headquarters in Belgium – aimed at protecting allied cyberspace operations.

The NATO Integrated Cyber Defence Centre, or NICC, is expected to alert NATO military commanders about possible threats and vulnerabilities in cyberspace, the press release states.

The announcement coincides with the 2024 NATO Summit of world leaders being held in Washington, D.C. from July 9th - 11th, also marking the Alliance’s 75th anniversary.

The move comes as NATO Allied nations, including the organization itself, have been plagued by an onslaught of politically motivated cyberattacks since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, also one of the main topics of discussion to take place during the three-day NATO summit.

NATO spokesperson Farah Dakhlallah broke the news on X on Tuesday, wrapping Day 1 of the Summit talks.

“#NATO Allies agreed to establish a new Cyber Defence Centre to better protect against increasing cyber threats,” Dakhlallah posted. “The Centre will enhance the protection of NATO’s networks and the Alliance’s use of cyberspace as an operational domain,” she said.

The new Centre will bring together not only civilian and military personnel from across the NATO Enterprise and Allied countries, but also involve experts from across the cybersecurity industry, NATO states.

NATO said that privately-owned civilian critical infrastructures used to support NATO military activities will also be brought into the fold.

“It will leverage advanced technologies to increase our situational awareness in cyberspace and enhance collective resilience and defence” NATO said.

NATO members targeted by Russia

NATO and allied nations are under constant threat of cyberattacks and disruptions from all facets of the security landscape, which have only increased and become more sophisticated with the introduction of artificial intelligence.

APT 29 (CozyBear, MidnightBlizzard) and APT 28 (FancyBear) are two of Russia’s major nation-state threat actors. Known to be part of Putin's military intelligence – the groups are responsible for major hacks such as the 2020 SolarWinds hack and more recently targeting tech giant Microsoft and EU diplomatic entities.

Russian-aligned hacktivist groups, such as NoName057, KillNet, and Anonymous Sudan, have continually bombarded allied government agencies and other critical infrastructure with Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks on a daily basis since the Russio-Ukrainian war began.

Furthermore, various ransomware gangs, some with suspected ties to the Kremlin, such as BlackBasta and Royal (now BlackSuit), have also made it their missive to relentlessly target private organizations and critical infrastructure of the Western bloc.

“In line with Allies’ shared values and international obligations, the Centre will promote a norms-based, predictable and secure approach to cyberspace, “ NATO said about its vision for the Centre.

The NICC will be based at NATO’s military headquarters in Belgium – otherwise known as SHAPE or the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe – with more details to be revealed in the coming months.

SHAPE is also the home to NATO’s Allied Command Operations (ACO), which is responsible for all NATO operations worldwide.