EU Sets Up An Emergency Team To Handle Large Scale Attacks

European Union agencies have suffered from damaging cyber attacks over the last year and in a recent Briefing Paper the EU Commission said it has identified weaknesses in cyber security governance abound in the public and private sectors across the EU as well as at the international level.  “This impairs the global community’s ability to respond to and limit cyber attacks and undermines a coherent EU-wide approach. The challenge is thus to strengthen cyber security governance”. 

In pursuit of this aim, the European Commission has announced that it plans to build a Joint Cyber Unit to be based in Brussels that  and it will take-on large scale cyber attacks. The rapid-response Joint Cyber Unit will pool European cyber-security powers to launch operations against ongoing hacking threats.

Currently cyber security communities, including civilian, law enforcement, diplomatic and cyber defence communities, as well as private sector partners, often operate separately.  However, while the sectors are specific, the threats are often common with consequent benefits from coordination, knowledge sharing and advance warning across communities.

National level cyber security attacks in Europe rose from 432 in 2019 to 756 in 2020 and the recent massive ransomware incidents on critical services in Ireland and the US has "focused minds" according to EU Commission sources.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland was hit by a ransomware group called Conti which scrambled IT systems, causing major disruption to many hospitals.HSE chief Paul Reid told the Oireachtas health committee recently that it will take months to fix the system and that it will cost as much as €100m (£85m) to recover.

The Commission intends that dedicated cyber team will be immediately deployed to EU countries during serious attacks and Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas has said recently that the hack on the vital US fuel pipeline was a "nightmare scenario that we have to prepare against".

In both instances, hackers use malicious software to scramble and steal an organisation's computer data and then used attempted to extort ransomware from the corporate victims in return for returning services back to normal. While the criminals were successful in being paid off by the US pipeline operator, the Irish Government has refused to pay. 

The EU’s aim is to ensure that the Joint Cyber Unit will be operational by June 2022, and that it will be fully established one year later, by 30 June 2023.

In the US the Biden Administration is taking urgent steps to address the wave of major ransomware attacks by strengthening and cetralising national capabilities and by appealing for international co-operation, notably form Russia, where many of these attacks originate:  

European Court of Auditors:    Bloomberg:      BBC:      ITGovernance:   ITPro:      The National:    Smart Energy

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