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Relax hackers! NATO has no cyber-attack plans - top brass

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CyCon 2012 NATO does NOT need cyber-offensive capabilities, according to a senior military commander.

Major General Jaap Willemse, who was speaking at the International Conference on Cyber Conflict (CyCon), said launching barrages of computer-based attacks is off the agenda for the Western military alliance, at least for the immediate future.

"Nobody at NATO is considering it. There are huge political, legal and diplomatic objections," said the assistant chief of staff command, control, communication and intelligence at NATO Allied Command Transformation. "There are huge risks compared to the potential benefits."

"NATO does not have the doctrine, command and control, educational support or other factors needed to run an offensive capability," he added.

Although there might be a need for internet-based sorties in the future, the Royal Netherlands Air Force major general said: "It could become another tool for a NATO commander like electronic warfare and intelligence."

For now, however, NATO's efforts should be limited to developing an ability to simulate cyber-attacks for testing purposes - and protecting nations' critical infrastructures from hackers should ordinarily be left to the 28 national governments that make up NATO. Maj Gen Willemse said NATO's role should be limited to monitoring unless clear gaps in defences appear that present a need to intervene.

NATO's current action plan runs until 2015, and the alliance needs a new roadmap with a "solid plan based on risk assessment", Maj Gen Willemse said while giving the opening keynote at the fourth CyCon in Estonia on Wednesday.

"Governments are not going to pour money into a black hole," he concluded. ®

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