The European Commission has recently announced its intention to create a new specialised cybersecurity unit. The Commission wants to combat the growing number of serious cyber security incidents that can affect public services and the lives of businesses and citizens in the European Union. The joint unit will act as a platform to ensure a coordinated EU response and to provide assistance to countries affected by such attacks.
The state of play on cyber security in Europe
As the number, scale and impact of cyber attacks increase, while also placing a heavy burden on security, the need for advanced and coordinated cyber security responses is growing, according to the European Commission. The aim is to ensure that all relevant actors in the EU can be prepared to react collectively and exchange useful information on a “need to share” rather than on a “need to know” basis.
The European Commission says that cyber security is a top priority and a cornerstone of a digital and connected Europe. It points to the increase, but also the virulence of these attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic, which showed the importance of protecting intelligent health and care systems, but also research centres and other critical infrastructures.
Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission for a digitally prepared Europe, states:
“Cybersecurity is a cornerstone of a digital and connected Europe. In today’s society, it is crucial to respond to threats in a coordinated way. The Joint Cybersecurity Unit will contribute to this goal. Together we can make a real difference.”
Currently, the cybersecurity communities, which include the civilian, law enforcement, diplomatic and military cybersecurity communities, as well as private sector partners, too often act separately. The creation of this cybersecurity unit in Europe should bring these communities together.
New joint cybersecurity unit to combat rising cyber attacks in Europe
First announced by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the joint cybersecurity unit aims to bring together the resources and expertise available to the EU and its member states. Its aim will be to prevent, deter and respond to cyber security incidents and crises in an effective manner.
The Joint Cybersecurity Unit will serve as a platform to ensure a coordinated EU response to cybersecurity incidents and crises and to provide assistance to affected countries. The EU and its Member States currently have many entities operating in different areas and sectors.
All participants will have to provide operational resources for mutual assistance in the Joint Cybersecurity Unit. This unit will allow them to share best practices, as well as real-time information on threats that may emerge in their respective areas.
Among the tasks also allocated to this initiative, the European Commission highlighted:
- The development of an EU cybersecurity incident and crisis response plan building on the relevant national plans;
- The establishment and mobilisation of EU cybersecurity rapid response teams;
- Facilitating the adoption of protocols on mutual assistance among the participants;
- Establishing national and cross-border surveillance and detection capabilities, including Security Operations Centres (SOCs).
The joint cybersecurity unit will be introduced in four stages to ensure that it can enter its operational phase by June 30, 2022, and be fully implemented by June 30, 2023.