Monday

13th Jul 2020

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 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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.

News in Brief

  1. Croatia opens for US tourists, defying EU ban
  2. Poll: only 61% of Germans would get Covid-19 vaccine
  3. UK to spend €788m on new UK-EU border control system
  4. Berlin wants first use of EU cyber sanctions on Russia
  5. Erdogan warns neighbours over hydrocarbon reserves
  6. Bulgaria: political crisis amid anti-corruption protests
  7. Pope and Turkish-German leader join Hagia Sophia protest
  8. France and UK create joint migrant intelligence unit

Revealed: fossil-fuel lobbying behind EU hydrogen strategy

As with the German government – which presented its own hydrogen strategy last month – the European Commission and other EU institutions appear to be similarly intoxicated by the false promises of the gas industry.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. Poland's EU-battles to continue as Duda wins tight vote
  2. EU 'in-person' summit plus key data privacy ruling This WEEK
  3. Let's have positive discrimination for EU stagiaires
  4. We need to do more for our small and medium-sized enterprises
  5. Romania's virus surge prompts queues and new worries
  6. Michel lays out compromise budget plan for summit
  7. Border pre-screening centres part of new EU migration pact
  8. EU 'failed to protect bees and pollinators', report finds

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us