NATO encourages Estonian cyber security companies to get involved in alliance IT development
In a bid to involve small and large companies in Europe and the United States to work together to help NATO develop its cyber security and protect its networks, the alliance announced €3bn worth of funding it is going to allocate to cyber initiatives.
The announcement was made at the opening of the fifth annual NATO Communication and Information Agency (NCI) and AFCEA Industry Conference that took place in the Estonian capital this week. Over 500 participants representing top IT firms took part in the conference, which concluded on Thursday.
On the sidelines of the conference, ERR seized the opportunity and interviewed Mr. Koen Gijsbers, the general manager of the NCI.
ERR: This is the first time NCI holds a conference in Estonia. Why did you choose Estonia this time?
Gijsbers: The industry conference is ready to get industries and IT procurement involved with the cyber procurement of NATO. It's very important that we can reach small and medium companies that really have innovative power. Therefore, we move around with this conference within Europe and the United States.
We have held four in Europe and one in the United States so far. We feel very fortunate to be in Estonia today, especially because there are quite a lot of innovative companies here in the cyber domain. We are discussing cyber and IT resilience, so this is an excellent place to discuss that.
NATO has announced €3bn worth of funding for cyber based initiatives. What are the most important applications?
NATO and NCI, which procures all the IT for NATO, are focusing on the defense of the networks that NATO owns. It's very important that the defense is at a very high stage, and I can tell you that they have done quite well. But of course we need to renew and refresh that technology. One of the major projects we have is to replace the capability that NATO has at the moment with more modern and better capability to defend its networks.
In which areas will the funding be used?
It's comprehensive. In all areas related with IT security, including information assurance and cyber. We need the latest technology.
Where do you see a possibility for Estonian companies to do business in context of NATO’s cyber security?
Estonia has some very interesting companies in the cyber domain, such as Guardtime and RangeForce. We want to be able to make use of their knowledge. However, NATO always competes, as we have 28 member nations.
It's important and it's actually one of the reasons we are here to get those companies to work with us in order to be able to bid in these projects and win projects. Very often, small companies are actually too small to develop a capability for the entire NATO, then they need to work with bigger IT integrators, who are also all at the conference.
It's very important for us that smaller companies here in Estonia and bigger companies from Europe and the United States work together in order to help us defend the networks and get the best solutions in place.
This is one of the objectives of this conference. For example, this week we had 220 business-to-business meetings with larger and small companies working together. To stimulate that, we held a cyber contest where we asked young and small companies to come up with proposals of innovation in the cyber domain.
It was great to announce that RangeForce, an Estonian company, had one of the ten best proposals. It's very interesting because I spoke to the company and they were able to exhibit their solutions here at this conference, and they got quite a lot of interest of the large companies that want to make use of their technology. This is really how we are trying to stimulate the Estonian companies to be part of NATO's work.
This conference is taking place a month before the NATO Warsaw summit kicks off. Can you tell us the significance of this conference at this particular time?
The timing is a coincidence. We have an annual conference in this time frame, but what we discuss is very relevant to the summit. In that sense, my agency together with Estonia has also built up the NATO force integration unit here in Tallinn. During the summit, that unit is going to be declared fully operationally capable, and that's an important step in the direction of better preparedness for the security environment.