The NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) welcomed four new members, including Ukraine, in a ceremony held at its headquarters. The other three members of CCDCOE are Iceland, Ireland and Japan.
This event coincided with the CCDCOE’s 15th anniversary, marking a crucial development in international cooperation cyber defense alliances.
“In light of Russia’s ongoing military aggression and hybrid warfare, waged against our country, Ukraine’s accession to the CCDCOE will further strengthen our country’s cyber capabilities,” said Mariana Betsa, Ambassador of Ukraine to Estonia.
Shortly after the CCDCOE announcement, the Estonian Parliament Riigikogu unanimously passed a resolution in support of Ukraine’s NATO membership.
With the inclusion of these four nations, the NATO cyber alliance’s membership expands to 39 countries. Established in 2008, the CCDCOE has become the largest NATO center of excellence.
CCDCOE and Iceland, Ireland, Japan, and Ukraine
We are pleased to have like-minded nations sharing cyber knowledge and exchanging methods to systematically address cyber attacks,” CCDCOE Director Mart Noorma stated, Expressing gratitude for the decision of the four nations to join the alliance.
“Our aim is to foster increased cooperation and reap the benefits of this large-scale coalition through research, training, and exercises.”
Hanno Pevkur, Estonian Minister of Defence, extended congratulations to the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence for its growth and warmly welcomed the new members.
Pevkur emphasized Ukraine’s inclusion, highlighting the unique opportunity for the country to contribute to its defense against Russia’s aggression and learn from the cyber battlefield to enhance the cyber security of all members.
Margus Tsahkna, Estonian Foreign Minister, commended the CCDCOE for its international projects such as the renowned cyber defense exercise Locked Shields and the annual conference CyCon.
Tsahkna also praised the Tallinn Manual, which has played a crucial role in upholding international law in cyberspace for over a decade. He expressed his wishes for the CCDCOE’s success with its new members, underscoring the importance of unity in strengthening cyber defense.
CCDCOE: Perspective of the new members
Peter Burke, Ireland’s Minister of State for European Affairs and for Defense, acknowledged the importance of Ireland’s membership in the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in developing the county’s cyber security capacity.
He emphasized the need for collective defense against malicious cyber activity and highlighted the CCDCOE’s role in strengthening Ireland’s cyber resilience through expertise sharing, training, and exercises.
“We have witnessed Russia’s brutal and unprovoked act of aggression against Ukraine. Closer to home, we have seen the effects of cyber-attacks in Ireland, including the attack on our health service in 2021,” he said.
“Simply put, our world is being transformed in a way that only reinforces the need to work together with our friends,” emphasizing the importance of CCDCOE.
Harald Aspelund, Iceland’s Ambassador, reiterated Iceland’s commitment to enhancing cyber resilience, security, and defense. Aspelund expressed pleasure at being part of a community that promotes knowledge exchange and contributes to collective security.
SAKAI Yuki, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of the Embassy of Japan, conveyed Defense Minister Hamada’s message, underscoring Japan’s prioritization of strengthening response capabilities in the cyber domain.
Japan pledged to contribute to the CCDCOE, reinforce cooperation with NATO and like-minded countries, and uphold international order based on universal values and international law.
Mariana Betsa, Ukraine’s Ambassador, celebrated Ukraine’s official accession to the NATO CCDCOE, considering it a landmark event for the country’s relations with the North Atlantic Alliance.
Betsa expressed confidence that Ukraine’s participation would enhance the exchange of experience in cyber security and further strengthen the country’s cyber capabilities, especially in light of Russia’s ongoing military aggression and hybrid warfare.
CCDCOE, cyber alliance, and joint exercises
NATO members including Estonia have been consistently facing cyber attacks from pro-Russian threat groups since the Russian invasion of Ukraine started in March 2022.
Since the beginning of last year, the Riigikogu has made five statements and one appeal to condemn Russia’s actions and express support for Ukraine,” said the Estonian parliament’s statement supporting Ukraine’s NATO entry.
These attacks were allegedly carried out as a response to a highly inflammatory anti-Islamic campaign orchestrated by Rasmus Paludan, a controversial far-right journalist who holds dual Danish-Swedish citizenship. Paludan has a history of engaging in similar actions.
Swedish media reports indicate that the permit for Paludan’s demonstration was financially supported by Chang Frick, a former contributor to the Kremlin-backed channel RT.
The attacks seemed to have been motivated by the desire to obstruct Sweden’s impending entry into NATO, which contradicted Russian interests in the region, as reported by The Guardian.
Promptly, Anonymous Sudan joined in with its rhetoric of protecting Islam, causing considerable anger from NATO member Turkey. This anger raised the possibility that Turkey would veto Sweden’s entry into the alliance.
Despite the perpetrators’ intentions, their plans did not succeed, as Sweden eventually obtained Turkey’s approval for its entry into NATO.
The announcement of Ukraine joining the NATO cyber alliance came days after the the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE), hosted Locked Shields 2023, the world’s largest cyber defence exercise by the number of participating countries.
The event had about 3,000 participants from around the world, with the declared aim to enhance skills in defending national IT systems and critical infrastructure against real-time cyber attacks.
The exercise involves 24 teams tasked with maintaining operational critical infrastructure and IT systems under time pressure. With over 5,500 virtual systems created specifically for the exercise, Locked Shields offers a unique opportunity for teams to demonstrate their abilities in realistic scenarios.