The NATO Allied Command began its largest cyberdefense exercise, Cyber Coalition 20, on Monday, with demonstrations of computer network defenses.
The annual event, operated virtually this year because of COVID-19 pandemic concerns, involves about 1,000 people from 25 NATO countries, four partner nations and the European Union.
The weeklong exercise tests decision making processes, technical and operational procedures, collaboration, and NATO and national cyberdefense capabilities, a NATO statement on Monday said.
It’s aim is to strengthen the ability of the military alliance to deter, defend and counter threats in and through cyberspace.
The exercise tests real-time responses to incidents, including breaches of classified networks, disruption of communications systems in critical infrastructure and espionage using smartphone applications.
“Cyberdefense is part of collective defense,” U.S. Navy Cmdr. Robert Buckles, exercise director, said in a statement on Monday. “Cyber Coalition 20 proves NATO’s ability to adapt and to counter any cyberthreat even during a pandemic like COVID-19.”
NATO added cybersecurity to its operational domain and collective defense commitment in 2014, and established a Cyberspace Operations Center to protect members from cyber attacks.
While the NATO charter’s collective defense statute is generally interpreted as recognition of an armed attack on a NATO member, Deputy Secretary Mircea Geoana said in September that a military cyberattack on a country qualifies as a cause for all NATO nations to come to its aid.
“We agreed that a cyberattack could trigger Article 5 of our founding treaty, where an attack against one ally is treated as an attack against all,” Geoana said at the time at a virtual conference of CYBERSEC, an annual public policy conference sponsored by the Kosciusko Institute of Krakow, Poland.