A major global cyber attack which struck particularly hard in Ukraine on Tuesday could potentially trigger NATO’s Article 5 mutual defense commitment, according to NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.
On Tuesday, computer systems around the world were subjected to ransomware cyber attacks that spread from Ukraine and Russia, across Europe to the United States and then on to Asia.
The attack appeared to be a modification of the “WannaCry” cyber attack in May which hit more than 200,000 users in more than 150 countries.
According to NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg, the attack means that the NATO alliance must step up its defense against cyber attacks and that the military alliance’s Article 5 mutual defense commitment could potentially be sparked over such an event.
Article 5 provides that if a NATO ally is the victim of an attack, each and every other member of the Alliance will consider the attack against all members and will take the actions it deems necessary to assist the ally attacked.
Stoltenberg said the “attack in May and this week just underlines the importance of strengthening our cyber defenses and that is what we are doing.”
“We exercise more, we share best practices and technology and we also work more and more closely with all allies,” he told reporters ahead of a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday.
In July 2016, NATO allies reaffirmed defensive mandates and recognized cyberspace as a domain of operations in which NATO must defend itself as effectively as it does in the air, on land and at sea.
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Interior Minister of Ukraine, MP Anton Gerashchenko, was quick to place the fault of the attack on Russia, saying that “a huge cyber-attack at Ukrainian companies on Tuesday has been organized by Russian intelligence services and it is one of the elements of the hybrid war against Ukraine.”
“The intrusion is the biggest in Ukraine’s history,” Gerashchenko wrote on Facebook. The goal was “the destabilization of the economic situation and in the civic consciousness of Ukraine,” though it was “disguised as an extortion attempt,” he said.
“A huge cyber-attack has been started against Ukraine. It was done under the disguise that it is allegedly a virus… According to the preliminary information, this is an organized system, a kind of training by the Russian intelligence services. The attack aims at banks, media and transport communications,” he said on 112 Ukraine TV Channel on Tuesday.
Russia itself was a victim of the attack, with Russian oil giant Rosneft and steelmaker Evraz having their information systems struck.
As Reuters notes:
While the malware seemed to be a variant of past campaigns, derived from code known as Eternal Blue believed to have been developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), experts said it was not as virulent as last month’s WannaCry attack.
They said Tuesday’s virus could leap from computer to computer once unleashed within an organization but, unlike WannaCry, it could not randomly trawl the internet for its next victims, limiting its scope to infect.
The introduction of security patches in the wake of the May attack that crippled hundreds of thousands of computers also helped curb the latest malware, though its rapid spread underlined concerns that some businesses have still failed to secure their networks from increasingly aggressive hackers.
Joseph Jankowski is a contributor for PlanetFreeWill.com, where this article first appeared. His works have been published by recognizable alternative news sites like GlobalResearch.ca, ActivistPost.com, InfoWars.com and ZeroHedge.com.