Saturday

17th Nov 2018

Opinion

Lessons for EU to protect against next cyber attack

As the latest ransomeware attack 'Bad Rabbit' spreads through Europe, it is again clear that there are few degrees of separation between malware targets and global information technology networks.

Initially aimed at Ukraine's Ministry of Infrastructure and Kiev's public transportation system, the current ransomware blitz has now spread to Turkey and Germany, compromising a growing list of international businesses, government interests and thousands of personal computers.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The explosive growth of cloud-based and on-demand data systems has pushed vital sectors such as business, banking, and healthcare into risky relationships with IT infrastructure that exposes them to unexpected threats. But governments have even more at stake. Their need to house sensitive citizen data and protect national security has made them ideal targets for cyber-attacks.

Many countries are actively developing e-governance strategies — digital initiatives centred on citizen needs that are meant to promote service efficiency, productivity, transparency, and technological innovation. But these actions have also introduced a range of potential security risks, which need to be met with coordinated cybersecurity frameworks.

High-profile government hacking incidents, such as the 2015 breach of more than 22 million employee profiles in the US Office of Personnel Management database (including extensive security clearance files and personal backgrounds) are alarming examples of the holes being exploited by cyber criminals and state-sponsored hackers.

What can governments do to safeguard their data systems and citizens, and to reduce the spread of global 'e-pidemics'?

Three steps

First, they must shift to holistic approaches that progress beyond suites of technical tools such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems and spam filters. They must embrace organisational and behavioural change. By integrating a 'prevention is better than cure' strategy, governments can create interagency knowledge networks and focus on training computer users to be aware of cyber risks, how to avoid them, and how to be first responders when attacks strike.

One such example is the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) — a government "hub for private and public sector collaboration and information-sharing to combat cyber security threats". The centre aggregates cybersecurity and cyberdefence capabilities from a wide range of government departments, police units, crime commissions, the private sector, academia, local government, and international partners.

ACSC plays a pivotal role in raising awareness of cybersecurity issues, reporting incidents, analysing and investigating attacks and threats, and coordinating national security operations to respond to cyber-attacks.

Second, governments must have a clear cybersecurity strategy and make a deliberate investment in building capacity to deal with cybercrime. This begins with a broad assessment of government organisations to fully understand all aspects of their operations in cyberspace (e.g. open doors, levels of data-sensitivity, user authentication, encryption of sensitive data, etc.). Only then can comprehensive security policies and best practice guidelines be developed to ensure that overarching cybersecurity defences are effectively scaled to protect critical information and infrastructure.

But strategies must also be built on a reliable foundation of focal points in relevant government agencies, authorities and civil society. These human resources are crucial links to wider detection of, and recovery from, cyber-attacks.

Third, while the responsibility to develop strong legislation that discourages cyber-attacks falls on the shoulders of governments, they should look to impartial advisors and international organisations such as the United Nations, who are dedicated to enhancing cybersecurity culture and building awareness at policy levels.

UN research centres, like those of the United Nations University, are well positioned to bring partners to the table to find solutions. For example, development of an internet governance model and an international treaty harmonising national laws against cybercrime such as copyright infringement, fraud, child pornography, hate crimes, and cybersecurity breaches with supervision of related UN agencies would be welcome by member states.

Effective cybersecurity is a complex transnational challenge that requires strategy and cooperation at all levels and among states. There is a long way to go to build a coordinated response to computer crimes, but with new exploits being developed every day, there is no time to wait. Our short-term solutions must be devised as building blocks of a collaborative effort to fight global cyber-attacks.

Nuno Lopes and Jose Faria are researchers at the United Nations University operating unit on policy-driven electronic governance.

EU unsure how to 'make most' of AI

Whoever controls AI, 'will become the ruler of the world', according to Russian president Vladimir Putin. EU leaders want to move quickly to harness the opportunities of the technology.

On cybersecurity, Europe must act now

Some governments have closed their eyes, hoping that the menace will go away. It will not - it will only become stronger, according to the former prime minister of Estonia, one of the EU's leading digital states.

US steps in to clean up Cyprus

Cyprus has overlooked undertakings on bank probity made to the EU in the context of the 2013 bailout - but it might prove harder to get the US off its back.

News in Brief

  1. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  2. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  3. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  4. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  5. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  6. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  7. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  8. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May

Why 'Spitzenkandidat' is probably here to stay

The power of the parliament to 'appoint' the president of the EU Commission is new, highly-contested - and not universally understood. In fact, even some of the lead candidates to replace Jean-Claude Juncker are against it.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  2. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  3. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  4. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  5. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  6. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  7. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  8. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us