The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is working to bolster its cybersecurity defense tactics, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a Wednesday press conference following a meeting of the North Atlantic Council.

In the meeting, NATO allied countries’ defense ministers agreed to an outline for an adapted NATO command structure, including the creation of a new cyber operations center. Stoltenberg said a “robust and agile command structure” is a key component in protecting NATO countries beyond their physical borders.

In order to effectively battle cyber threats as physical threats, Stoltenberg said NATO needs to understand the cybersecurity issues it faces, and also needs to know the best response.

SEE: Network security policy (Tech Pro Research)

The decision to focus on cyberweapon tactics as opposed to physical and military threats may be the best option for the organization to achieve maximum security impact, Stoltenberg said.

“For NATO, it is always our aim to use minimum force to achieve maximum effect and therefore cyber effects may be the best response,” Stoltenberg said, adding he’s seen some NATO allies using cybertactics to fight ISIS.

Stoltenberg said he would not speculate on when and how NATO would use the tactics, but said any use would be according to international law, would be proportionate to the offense, and would utilize national capabilities.

Much like the military supplies used by NATO, the nations will maintain full ownership of their cybercapabilities. Stoltenberg said integrating national capabilities into NATO missions strengthens NATO’s capabilities by default.

NATO needs to work more with national governments to ensure they have enough transport capacity and appropriate infrastructure to fulfill its goals, Stoltenberg said. He noted that NATO has seen progress on this front since 2014, and cybercapabilities will be integrated in a similar way.

“This is just illustrating that we are adapting to a new world where cyber is becoming more and more important, but it’s not that different than for instance conventional capabilities when nations have the ownership but they use them in a NATO mission and operation,” Stoltenberg said.

SEE: Defending against cyberwar: How the cybersecurity elite are working to prevent a digital apocalypse (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

NATO began looking into their command structure at last year’s Warsaw Summit, which took place in July 2016.

The new command structure also includes ways to protect physical assets, including work to take care of transatlantic wires.

Stoltenberg couldn’t say where the cyber operations center would be located.

“I welcome the fact that we now can strengthen NATO missions and operations also with cyber capabilities because we know that they are important, and we know that cyber will be an integral part of any potential military conflict,” said Stoltenberg.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on Wednesday that NATO plans to increase its cybersecurity efforts.
  2. A key part of the efforts is the creation of a cyber operations center. The center is a part of a larger change in NATO command structure to better fight today’s threats.
  3. Stoltenberg said that cyber efforts may be more effective in fighting NATO’s enemies than physical attacks, as they allow for maximum impact with minimal work in some cases.