NATO agrees to boost cyber defenses, argues over how

The organization has butted heads on just how far it should go to protect the smallest allies.

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NATO may have agreed that cybersecurity needs to be ramped up the priority list, but the organization's leaders are not so sure about what and who needs defense the most.

The organization's ministers agreed on Tuesday that cybersecurity measures need to be strengthened, but smaller allies less able to protect themselves remain of concern, as reported by Reuters. As the 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization is closely connected, one attack on a system can result in a chain affect which can have devastating consequences on countries higher-up.

NATO said that the organization coped with over 2,500 "significant" cyberattacks on its systems last year. NATO's chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a news conference:

"We are all closely connected, so an attack on one ally, if it is not dealt with quickly and effectively, can affect us all. Cyber defence is only as effective as the weakest link in the chain. By working together we strengthen the chain."

Defense ministers from each ally have agreed that NATO cyber defenses should be fully operational by October this year, and this protection needs to be spread out to every computer network operated by the alliance. Rapid response teams will also be established to deal with attacks as they occur.

However, the alliance has disagreed on just how response requests should be processed when allies come under attack, and whether larger members -- including the U.S., U.K. and Germany -- should divert additional funding and resources to protect smaller allies which have limited resources.

Last month, the Pentagon accused China of conducting widespread cyber espionage campaigns against U.S. targets. A Department of Defense report claimed diplomatic, economic, and defense industrial base sectors that support national defense programs are most at risk, shoring up claims made in February that the Asian country is responsible for an "overwhelming" number of cyberattacks.

Recently, a confidential report prepared by the U.S. Defense Science Board for the Pentagon also claimed that Chinese hackers were able to infiltrate systems and steal data on military weapon designs. It is these kinds of threats that the U.S. Cyber Commander General Keith B. Alexander wishes to avoid as he pushes ahead with plans to revamp American security protocol.

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