The European Commission is to urge greater co-operation among member states in tackling cyber-security threats. It will launch a strategy on 7 February to protect Europe’s infrastructure from risks posed by criminals, terrorists and enemy governments. The proposal will include legislation to increase the level of security of information systems in industries that are reliant on digital infrastructure.
The initiative is led by three European commissioners: Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner for the digital agenda, Cecilia Malmström, the commissioner for home affairs, and Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief. In a speech to the Global Cyber-Security Conference in Brussels yesterday (30 January), Kroes said that “rising threats, rising vulnerabilities and lack of trust” all stood in the way of the growth potential of the internet. “Across the EU, some countries are still not prepared enough,” Kroes said. “There are gaps in their capabilities. So we will propose that all EU countries equip themselves properly for network and information security.”
The Commission is expected to propose obligations for each member state to set up an emergency response team in charge of handling security incidents and to create contingency plans. Obligations on the private sector to assess risk levels are also expected to feature, focusing on critical sectors such as energy, banking and transport, and requiring national authorities to assess their preventive measures.
The Commission’s enthusiasm for the growth potential of the internet is balanced by caution over the risks to vulnerable systems. The chances of a major breakdown of internet security in the next decade are estimated at 10% by the World Economic Forum, at a cost of almost €200 billion. The European Parliament and member states will have to agree on the legislation before it can become law.
Among the proposals that could prove most controversial in member states is the Commission’s wish for countries to share sensitive and confidential information about potential cyber attacks.
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