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NATO defence ministers agree: This cyber business is very serious

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NATO ministers have agreed to step up efforts to protect members' cyber networks, but are still unsure whether or not to step in and sort out individual hacks.

Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a press conference after the first defence ministers' meeting devoted to cyber issues yesterday that attacks were "getting more common, more complex and more dangerous".

"They come without warning. From anywhere in the world. And they can have devastating consequences," he said.

Rasmussen said that NATO had dealt with over 2,500 "significant" hacks in the last year alone, although its security had not been compromised.

The ministers agreed that NATO's cyber defence capability would be up and running by the autumn, protecting all the networks of its members.

"We are all closely connected. So an attack on one Ally, if 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," Rasmussen said.

The assembled war-politicos also agreed to set up rapid response teams to protect NATO's own systems, which are a priority because they are used to coordinate military operations among the allies.

However, the ministers weren't able to agree on whether the organisation should get involved if individual members were asking for help with cyber attacks. They were only able to get as far as agreeing that they needed to talk about it some more.

"We agreed that we will continue our discussion at our next meeting in October on how NATO can support and assist Allies who request assistance if they come under cyber attack," Rasmussen said. "We will do that on the basis of a detailed report that we have tasked today." ®

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