NATO adds cyber threats to collective response list

NATO has agreed to add cyber threats to its list of incidents that would trigger collective action from member states.

The official announcement will be made when the leaders of the organisation meet in Newport in Wales this week, despite NATO not having sufficient capacity to respond to a large-scale cyber attack.

Jamie Shea, who heads up NATO's emerging security threats division, said cyber threats specifically relate to Article 5 of the treaty that states if a threat is presented to one member nation, it will prompt action from all, which justifies a collective defence.

Shea told the Boston Globe it doesn't necessarily know what would trigger such an action though: "We don't say exactly which circumstances or what the threshold of the attack has to be to trigger a collective NATO response and we don't say what the collective NATO response should be."

However, US officials have previously stated that a cyber attack designed to pave the way for a more aggressive military attack would, for example, trigger Article 5 to come into affect. Action would also be taken if a cyber attack put lives in danger or 'inflicted serious material damage' too.

NATO has made it clear, however, that it does not possess any cyber weapons it could use in such a situation and is not aware of any member states having access to articles of this nature.

Information on NATO's website says the organisation has been spurred on to make changes to its policies in light of the growing sophistication of cyber attacks on NATO itself.

In 2010, NATO said it would not add attacks on a nation's financial systems or electrical grid to Article 5, which forms part the Washington Treaty, which was formed when NATO was set up in 1949.