Senior cyber coordinators from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) met for the first time Wednesday to discuss the cyber-threat landscape around the world in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The summit, which occurred in Brussels, also included the countries of Sweden and Finland, which have chosen to try to become the 31st and 32nd members of NATO.
"Today's North Atlantic Council meeting of senior cyber coordinators was an important step along the path to NATO's Summit in Madrid," said NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană.
He added: "There is an urgent need to step up our approach to cyber defense, and this collective effort also means engaging with our partners, including in the private sector."
The NATO coordinators reportedly reviewed their progress with cyber defense systems, and addressed building up resistance to particular cyber threats.
It's an important component to the overall NATO network, since cyber threats are becoming more frequent, "increasingly complex, destructive, and coercive."
On Sunday, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said the decision to join NATO primarily addressed enhancing her country's security efforts — and not a jab at Russia, which has been the subject of NATO scorn over the last three months, coinciding with the Ukraine war.
That aside, Andersson still expects cyber retaliation from Russia as Sweden and Finland formally apply for NATO membership.
Experts predict Russia might also launch unsophisticated types of cyberattacks, including "website defacement and distributed denial-of-service attacks," as a form of protesting the NATO expansion.
If Finland joins the alliance, six NATO members would subsequently share direct border access with Russia: Latvia, Estonia, Norway, Lithuania, and Poland already do.
Sweden is nestled between Norway and Finland.
Ukraine isn't a NATO member, but a number of alliance countries have supported the Ukrainian forces during their war with Russia.
According to NATO statistics, the unified group currently shares 754 border miles with Russia; if Finland joins in, the defensive alliance would extend by another 832 miles.
Last month, three U.S. federal agencies and a number of worldwide partners issued a joint advisory, warning that Russia's cyber threats against infrastructure targets could extend beyond the borders of Ukraine.
In its statement, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) cited the advisory as "the most comprehensive view of the cyber threat posed by Russia to critical infrastructure released by government cyber experts since the invasion of Ukraine," which began on Feb. 24.
The CISA advisory also provided alerts of perpetrators from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), and the Russian Ministry of Defense, Central Scientific Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics potentially executing "malicious cyber operations" in the coming days and weeks.
According to CISA, some of the cybercrime groups cited in the advisory "have threatened to conduct cyber operations in retaliation for perceived cyber offensives against Russia or against countries or organizations providing material support to Ukraine."
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