A senior NATO official has hailed a newly-signed agreement on cyber information sharing as a "key piece in the jigsaw" in the ongoing fight against cyber warfare.
The agreement comes after President Obama accused Russia of a cyber attack on the recent U.S elections and warned of threats of retaliation.
Obama accused Russian president Vladimir Putin of orchestrating cyber hacking in a bid to sway the election in favor of Donald Trump. It is claimed the hackers got access to confidential details of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman.
The outgoing president has now warned of "consequences."
As part of efforts to combat the cyber threat, the NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency and the U.S-based FireEye Inc. have signed what is called an industry partnership agreement.
Jamie Shea, NATO's Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, told Defense News that the deal, penned on Thursday, would give the western military alliance "enhanced awareness" of potential cyber threats.
"This is particularly welcome and comes at a time when the cyber threat has never been higher," he said. "It will improve our ability to detect, prevent and respond to the cyber threat."
Shea, speaking on Friday, said the agreement would boost cyber information sharing and "further strengthen" NATO and industry collective cyber defense.
The deal, said the British-born NATO veteran, will foster timely information sharing on cyber threats, allowing both parties to enjoy "enhanced situational awareness" and better protect their networks.
Shea said, "You have to remember that 90 percent of the cyber network is owned and run by the private sector so it is important that we have this sort of agreement.
"It should lead to a much greater range and exchange of information between NATO and private companies which is especially important at a time when the cyber domain is under pressure. In practice it will facilitate rapid and early bilateral exchange of non-classified technical information related to cyber threats and vulnerabilities."
This information will be integrated into the NCI Agency's detection and prevention processes, "further enhancing NATO's cyber security posture."
He added, "NATO will contribute directly because this is a bilateral exchange of information. When it comes to tackling cyberwarfare it is a two-way street."
"Being connected in this way is an absolute key to combating the cyber threat," said Shea, who is based at NATO's headquarters in Brussels. "FireEye has been very prominent in providing assistance on cyber issues in the United States and this agreement is another key piece in the jigsaw puzzle in the ongoing efforts on cyber warfare."
Further comment came from Koen Gijsbers, general manager of the NCI Agency, who said the agreement with FireEye represents an "important" part of the effort to bolster the Alliance's cyber defense posture.
"If we are going to move faster than the cyber threats we face, then it is absolutely imperative that we exchange timely and actionable threat information with industry," he said. "Our existing IPAs have already shown impressive results that are making a real difference to the NCI Agency and our industry partners. FireEye's depth of expertise from responding to many of the largest cyber breaches in the world will be very valuable to the IPA framework. We look forward to a productive partnership."
At NATO's Warsaw summit earlier this year, NATO leaders emphasized the need for information sharing and strong industry partnerships to address cyber challenges.
Shea said the agreement bolsters further a program that is already benefiting NATO and industry.
He pointed out that the IPA with FireEye is the ninth in a series of agreements through which the NCI Agency and industry partners generate "high-quality" data resulting in a mutually improved ability to detect, prevent, and respond to cyber threats.
Further reaction came from Bill Etheridge, defence spokesman for the UK Independence Party and a Member of the European Parliament:, "It is great to see NATO at the forefront of our cyber defenses. The alliance with FireEye can only bring greater security against cyber threats.It is our links with NATO that need alliances such as this."