NATO, Finland deepen cooperation on cyber defense

NATO, Finland deepen cooperation on cyber defense
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The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Finland are stepping up their cooperation on cyber defense in the face of increased threats in cyberspace and a resurgent Russia.

NATO and Finland on Thursday signed a political framework agreement on cyber defense cooperation that will allow them to better protect and strengthen their networks. 

“We look forward to enhancing our situational awareness and exchanging best practices with Finland, including through dedicated points of contact for rapid information exchange on early warning information and lessons learned,” Ambassador Sorin Ducaru, NATO’s assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges, said.

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Jukka Juusti, permanent secretary of Finland’s defense ministry, indicated that the country also wants to boost cooperation with the alliance by holding more joint cyber training and exercises. Finland already participates in the alliance’s Cyber Coalition, an annual cyber defense exercise.

“This arrangement is a good example of the cooperation between NATO and Finland — it is practical, substantial and at the same time mutually beneficial,” Juusti said in a statement. “Finland sees many opportunities of enhanced cooperation for example in conducting training and exercises in the cyber domain.”

The new agreement comes on the heels of the Russian government’s alleged cyber meddling in the U.S. presidential election. The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Moscow used cyberattacks and disinformation to undermine confidence American democracy and damage Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonGOP touts FBI look into Sanders’s wife Labor’s lonely decline Jeff Bridges: ‘I’m rooting’ for Trump as a human being MORE, which Russia has denied.

There are now suspicions that Moscow will also try to meddle in forthcoming European elections, including those in France and Germany.

NATO has focused more on cyber defense as cyber intrusions have become more pervasive and damaging, stoking concerns about the potential for attacks that might compromise critical infrastructure. At the Warsaw Summit last July, member states recognized cyberspace as a domain of operations in which NATO must defend itself.  

NATO infrastructure came under threat from 500 cyberattacks each month in 2016, an increase of 60 percent over the previous year, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg revealed last month. 

Finland and NATO actively cooperate on security and other operations, and the country has shown signs of wanting to boost cooperation with the alliance. Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled that he might move troops closer to the Finnish-Russian border if Finland were to join NATO. 

NATO member states have bolstered troop presence in the Baltic States and Poland to deter Russian aggression in eastern Europe, nearly three years after Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.