NATO members have agreed on the need for rapid-reaction teams to defend against cyber-attacks. Meanwhile, embattled German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere vowed to stick with an alliance plan to use more drones.
Defense ministers present for the talks in Brussels on Tuesday agreed that NATO should continue to seek coordinated plans to protect against cyber attack.
However, they failed to decide how to help individual member states whose computer systems come under attack.
The ministers agreed that NATO's full response capabilities to deal with cyber attacks on its own facilities should be in place by October.
"Today we have agreed how we can move forward in cyber defense as an alliance," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. "We are all closely connected, so an attack on one ally - if not dealt with quickly and effectively - can affect us all."
"Cyber attacks do not stop at national borders. Our defenses should not either," Rasmussen said.
Differences of opinion
Rasmussen conceded that the 28-nation alliance was still debating how national infrastructures should be protected. Germany, for example, has said that these should be the responsibility of each individual member. However, others want NATO to play a more integral role.
Rasmussen said one solution could be "to deploy national cyber assets to help an ally." The matter was further deferred to the next alliance meeting in October.
Also on the agenda was a need for greater defense spending from European member nations, with the US complaining that its share of the military financial burden has been growing disproportionately.
"If we do not invest in the capacities we need, we could put our military potential and political credibility at risk," warned Rasmussen.
German drone assurance
Rasmussen welcomed Germany's renewed commitment to a NATO drone program that would see the alliance acquire five high-altitude unmanned Global Hawks as part of its Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS).
An assurance was given by German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere that Germany still backed the project, despite the cancellation of its own Euro Hawk drone program.
De Maiziere said that lessons would be learned from the project, which was abandoned because of the difficulty that the German air force would have in getting clearance from civil aviation authorities.
"We will now look at the consequences of the Euro Hawk decision on the AGS," de Maiziere said. The defense minister has come under pressure in light of the 660 million euros (860 million dollars) that were spent in vain on the Euro Hawk project.
rc/ccp (AP, dpa, Reuters)