Emboldened and Evolving: A Snapshot of Cyber Threats Facing NATO

Written by: John Hultquist



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As North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members and partners gather for a historic summit, it is important to take stock of one of its most pressing challenges—the cyber threat. The Alliance faces a barrage of malicious cyber activity from all over the globe, carried out by emboldened state-sponsored actors, hacktivists, and criminals who are willing to cross lines and carry out activity that was previously considered unlikely or inconceivable. In addition to military targets, NATO must consider the risks that hybrid threats like malicious cyber activity pose to hospitals, civil society, and other targets, which could impact resilience in a contingency. The war in Ukraine is undoubtedly linked to escalating cyber threat activity, but many of these threats will continue to grow separately and in parallel. 

NATO must contend with covert, aggressive malicious cyber actors that are seeking to gather intelligence, preparing to or currently attacking critical infrastructure, and working to undermine the Alliance with elaborate disinformation schemes. In order to protect its customers and clients, Google is closely tracking cyber threats, including those highlighted in this report; however, this is just a glimpse at a much larger and evolving landscape.

Cyber Espionage

NATO’s adversaries have long sought to leverage cyber espionage to develop insight into the political, diplomatic, and military disposition of the Alliance and to steal its defense technologies and economic secrets. However, intelligence on the Alliance in the coming months will be of heightened importance. This year’s summit is a transition period, with the appointment of Mark Rutte as the new Secretary General and a number of adaptations expected to be rolled out to shore up the Alliance’s defense posture and its long-term support for Ukraine. Successful cyber espionage from threat actors could potentially undermine the Alliance’s strategic advantage and inform adversary leadership on how to anticipate and counteract NATO’s initiatives and investments.


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