Is Europe Ready For Cyber Warfare?

“Critical sectors such as transport, energy, health and finance have become increasingly dependent on digital technologies to run their core business... While digitalisation brings enormous opportunities and provides solutions for many of the challenges Europe is facing, not least during the COVID-19 crisis, it also exposes the economy and society to cyber threats,” says the EU Council.

Now, the European Commission’ has produced proposals for an EU-wide “cyber shield” of security operations centres that use artificial intelligence and machine learning as an early-warning system for cyber attacks and a joint unit to share information and collectively respond to threats.

When the systems of transport companies in Europe were brought down on February this year, Europe had just begun preparing for a coming war in Ukraine and the impact of tensions on the Russian border were beginning to be felt in global energy markets. The cyber attack sparked a wave of anxiety that a war in Ukraine would quickly expand online, with critical infrastructure at risk and just eleven days before Russian troops crossed the border into Ukraine, the European Central Bank warned banks in Europe to brace themselves for a wave of Moscow-sponsored cyber attacks.

It is less than 18 months since a new EU cyber security strategy was presented by the European Commission and critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, energy grids and railways, were highlighted as a priority, but it also highlighted the risk to everyday homes and offices. “We need to be sure that our systems are reliable,” commented Tanel Sepp, Estonian ambassador-at-large for cyber security. 

Sepp believes that Estonia's example can be repeated across the continent and prioritises an open Internet free of state-control. “We think alike, we have the same principles,” said Sepp.

Estonia was the target of a massive cyber attack in 2007, which brought down government sites, banks and the media, and Sepp organised a cyber-defence exercise for EU ministers in 2017. “That was precisely to show the politicians how cyber incidents can lead to situations that demand political decisions,” according to Sepp. 

The EU’s cybersecurity agency, ENISA, was made a permanent agency in 2019 and given more money and responsibility for cooperation and coordination of EU member states. In December 2020 The EU passed a directive that requires companies to address cyber security risks in their supply chains and supplier relationships and member states to conduct risk assessments.

The EU is aiming to deal with cyber threats by raising the cyber security standards of products through EU-wide certification processes, like a quality mark. At the moment, a certification framework is being developed so that specific certification schemes can be developed for specific types of products. 

Sepp wants to see the EU go further and says he wants EU member states to commit a certain percentage of IT investment towards cyber security and infrastructure, with the EU helping to calculate a fair contribution across members. “We all want to advance on our e-government and services, but we all have to think about the security,” he said.

According to research from ESET,  Portugal tops the list as the most cyber safe region in Europe, boasting very low numbers of people who have fallen victim to malicious software, social media hacking, online banking fraud and identity theft.  At the bottom of ESET's  European Cybersecurity Index is France at 22nd, Austria 23rd and  Romania at 24th.

EU Consilium:     Euronews:      Reddit:     Pixeltechy:   Flipboard:    WashingtonLatest:     VOA:  

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