BRATISLAVA, Slovakia – NATO has to take the necessary steps to protect the alliance from external cyber threats from other countries but also weaknesses within NATO, General John Allen told a closed on the record briefing at the GLOBSEC Forum in Bratislava.

Asked by New Europe if NATO is identifying specific countries as potential threats for cyber security, Allen said, “Sure. At the intel level, absolutely. And, frankly, you have countries that are coming at you. And you have other countries that are weaknesses within NATO because they’re not taking the kind of steps necessary to protect their networks. You have vulnerabilities of your own and you have to work with certain countries to ensure that if they’re not properly protected, your network is protected from them so it’s a very interesting moment actually.”

Allen along with Jim Townsend, adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), Admiral (Retd.) Giampaolo di Paola and Professor Julian Lindley French discussed on May 18 the GLOBSEC Policy Institute Initiatives.

NATO has to adapt to a very different strategic environment than that of any time since the end of the Cold War, which includes cyber threats and the impact of artificial intelligence on security.

Led by Allen, GLOBSEC NATO Adaptation Initiative is a yearlong project which studies the substantial changes within the global security environment and future challenges to the alliance.

A day earlier in Bratislava, NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) Director Merle Maigre talked to New Europe in a group interview about cyber security challenges, for the EU institutions and Member States. She highlighted the importance of the European Union’s Directive on security of network and information systems (NIS Directive) as a key piece of EU-wide legislation that tries to mitigate the vulnerability of the critical information infrastructure.

Asked if there is a disparity between EU member states in terms of how well prepared they are to face cyber threat, Maigre told New Europe, “Yes, I think so but these gaps are coming closer and both the EU and NATO are focusing hard to bring everybody up to the level. But how far you are depends when you started your travel and naturally there are allies and member states who are more mature in their development and thinking about cyber security. There are countries that are drafting their second or third cyber strategies. There countries who have set up their cyber command, there are even those who have tested these skills at operations”.

Maigre said there are efforts to boost the overall level of cybersecurity in the EU. “It’s never easy. The question is what’s the role for the military; who should coordinate it all because cyber permits every aspect of life. There is the civil side. There is the communication, finances, economy, digital services and then the cyber security aspect of it. Every country has to come up with its own approach how to put their house in order. But EU is trying to set clear rules to precipitate this process,” Maigre said.