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Cyber security high on European Commission agenda

The European Commission is recognising the growing importance of cyber security to the digital economy and is increasing funding to support research, resilience and cooperation

The European Commission (EC) is encouraging cooperation across the region to ensure improved cyber security across the board, says Miguel Gonzalez-Sancho, head of the EC’s unit for cyber technology and capacity building.

“From the EC’s perspective, if cyber security and data protection are not addressed sufficiently in a satisfactory way, the whole digital economy is in danger,” he told the EEMA ISSE 2018 cyber security conference in Brussels.

In the light of the fact that cyber attacks know no borders, Gonzalez-Sancho said the EU leadership was keen to close the vulnerabilities created by the fact that the cyber response capacity differs from country to country in the region.

“The threat is global, which means everyone is affected,” he said. “But there are differences in terms of [cyber defence] preparedness, and attackers will always go for the weakest link, putting the whole system at risk, so there is a need to increase resilience to cyber threats and incident response and to do it in a coordinated way.”

For this reason, Gonzalez-Sancho said the EC was looking for ways to enable more robust and effective structures to ensure strong cyber resilience and respond to cyber attacks.

The main areas of focus in the EU’s cyber security policy focus, he said, are building EU resilience to cyber attacks, creating effective EU cyber deterrence capability and strengthening international cooperation on cyber security.

To support cyber security policies, the EU is providing funding research and development projects to develop capacity solutions through the Horizon 2020 programme and for cross-border deployment and cooperation through the Connecting Europe Facility programme, which has a budget of €3bn.

“If cyber security and data protection are not addressed sufficiently in a satisfactory way, the whole digital economy is in danger”
Miguel Gonzalez-Sancho, European Commission

“For the future, the commission has made proposals for the next budget cycle to step up the funding support in cyber security for research and innovation through the Horizon Europe programme and the new Digital Europe programme, with an overall budget of €9.2bn.”

The Digital Europe programme is aimed at supporting procurement of advanced equipment, tools and data infrastructure; supporting the best use of European knowledge, capacity and skills; ensuring wide deployment of the latest solutions across the economy; and reinforcing capabilities for network and information systems.

Other programmes with a cyber security dimension include the European Defence Fund and the European Security Fund, said Gonzalez-Sancho.

Other initiatives involving building cyber security capacity and cooperation, he said, include the NIS directive, the proposed EU cyber security act, and plans to set up an EU-wide certification framework for ICT products, services and processes.

In conclusion, Gonzalez-Sancho said that despite the expertise in Europe, there was the risk of losing ground without effective cooperation regionally and internationally.

Despite the challenges of adapting institutions to work this way and political and economic threats to cooperation, he said it was imperative to improve cyber security response.

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