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NATO to begin cyber security drive

NATO is set to award the biggest cyber defence contract ever agreed outside the US on Wednesday, a move expected to prompt the alliance’s 28-member countries to follow suit and roll out their own cyber security systems.

The contract will see Finmeccanica, Italy’s defence contractor and Northrop Grumman, of the US, design and implement a project that allows Nato to detect and respond to cyber security threats by the end of this year.

The contract to secure the systems at NATO headquarters and 50 sites within 28 countries was fiercely contested even though it is initially worth only €50m.
Defence companies believe it will set a technological benchmark for the contracts individual Nato members seek to protect their own systems and NATO says it is merely the beginning of its own engagement on this new front.

Paul MacGregor, head of Finmeccanica’s cyber solutions, called the contract the “Willy Wonka’s golden ticket of cyber.” “Nato is creating a capability that is going to become the template within cyber defence, certainly within NATO nations and probably within a lot of people that are observing this solution.”

Nato countries would spend at least €1.4-5-2bn on securing their defence systems in the coming two to three years, Finmeccanica said.

 “We ourselves as an alliance are only as secure as each of our 28 allies is secure,” said Nato. “We want to be more agile in responding to attacks and help our allies become more responsive. There are much larger figures budgeted for cyber defence down track and this will mean far more investment.”

The UK, behind the US, is one of NATO’s most sophisticated figures in cyber defence. It earmarked an additional £650m for cyber security in its 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, making cyber one of the few areas not to suffer deep budgetary cuts.
But so far, outside US cyber command, most governments – including the UK – had not yet spent the money on outside help securing their systems, said Mr MacGregor, of Finmeccanica “This contract is the tipping point, particularly in the defence sector, because we have been talking about cyber for two to three years. people have been investing in it, we’ve been going to conferences, we’ve been marketing, we’ve been developing capability, but the market hasn’t really come to us until this point,” he said.

Thomas Valasek, of the Centre for European Reform, the think-tank, said: “This shows that countries outside the US are now taking cyber seriously.” He added that NATO had suffered security breaches in the past and that it needed to protect itself. “It is an obvious target as it is a military alliance included in a shooting war in Afghanistan and has peace building operations in Kosovo and off the coast of Somalia. One has to assume bad guys are after it,” he said.

FT.com – By Carola Hoyos, Defence Correspondent & James Blitz

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