European Union External Action

EU drives international cooperation on cybersecurity; tests ability to respond to threats

14/09/2017 - 17:31
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In an increasingly digital and interconnected world, defending EU citizens from cyber threats is a top priority for the EU. New proposed measures aim to enhance cooperation for cybersecurity within the EU and globally, boost innovation and invest in awareness and capacity-building. In parallel, the EU and NATO are holding coordinated exercises to test their ability to respond to cyber and hybrid threats.

In a joint Communication published on 13 September, the European Commission and EEAS put forward a series of measures to strengthen the EU's ability to prevent, deter and respond to cyber threats. Just last year there were 4,000 ransomware attacks per day in the world, a 300% increase compared to the year before. Major attacks have recently targeted companies, airports and government institutions. It is time to reinforce action at EU level.

In  the Global Strategy elaborated by HRVP Mogherini, the EU  committed to boosting the protection of the Union and its citizens. Evolving cyber threats stress the importance of strengthened defence enabling the EU to better prevent, deter and respond to cyber-attacks.

To this end, the Communication proposes improving cooperation across the continent and beyond.  The EU's aim is to work towards a global framework for conflict prevention and stability in cyberspace. This would be based on a shared understanding that States should behave in cyberspace as in any other domain applying existing international law. The EU also supports the development of norms for responsible State behaviour and the implementation of cybersecurity confidence-building measures in order to reduce the risk of misperception, escalation and conflict.

The EU's approach to cybersecurity prioritises the settlement of disputes in cyberspace by peaceful means. The EU will however boost its capacity to respond to cyber threats. Where necessary, restrictive measures can be taken in response to cyber activities with malicious intent.

To boost preparedness to respond to cyber and hybrid threats, the EU will also over the coming weeks hold the first ever parallel and coordinated exercises with NATO. Ahead of the large-scale exercises, EU defence ministers already participated in a first simulated cyber-attack exercise last week under the aegis of the Estonian Presidency.

The joint Communication also includes measures to support cyber capacity-building in partner countries. A dedicated EU Cyber Capacity Building Network will help mobilise collective expertise and guidelines will improve prioritisation and delivery of support.

All proposals will be presented in more detail next week by EU High Representative and Vice-President Mogherini, Vice-President Ansip, Commissioner Gabriel and Commissioner King.

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