NATO leaders agreed on Friday that a large-scale cyber attack on a member country could be considered an attack on the entire U.S.-led alliance, potentially triggering a military response.
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The decision marks an expansion of the organisation's remit, reflecting new threats that can disable critical infrastructure, financial systems and government without firing a shot.
"Today we declare that cyber defence is part of NATO's core task of collective defence," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a news conference.
In 2007, a series of crippling cyber attacks paralysed much of NATO member Estonia in an apparent response to a dispute over the movement of a Soviet-era war memorial. Most Western experts suspected the Kremlin was responsible but Russia denied it.