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EU cyber security agency urges action to avoid crisis

EU countries lack a harmonised framework to respond to the challenges of a large-scale cyber incident, according to a report by security agency Enisa

European Union cyber security agency Enisa is urging decision-makers in the region to take action to avoid a major cyber crisis.

The call comes as Enisa publishes a report recommending more efficient cyber crisis co-operation and management based on an analysis of current crisis management frameworks.

“Today, should a crisis arise from a large-scale cyber incident, EU member states would need a harmonised framework to effectively respond to the challenges posed by such an incident,” the report said.

Enisa has been supporting European cyber crisis management for several years, with activities including crisis simulation, training support to develop member states’ crisis plans and structures, international conferences, and reports.

The recommendations draw on challenges and lessons from decades of crisis management in the aviation, civil protection, border control, counter-terrorism, and health and disease control sectors.  

According to Enisa, the promulgation of a legal framework for EU-level crisis management has drastically increased the efficiency of European’s response to crises in all sectors analysed.

“Clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of the key actors may speed up the response time considerably when faced with a crisis situation,” the report said. “Conversely, the lack of it was seen as an impediment for the relevant bodies to operate effectively as they lacked a common strategy and were not legally mandated to do so.

“Lastly, in areas related to sovereignty, it was recognised that the currently observed lack of trust has been a significant issue which legislation can help improve.”

The report makes five main recommendations about EU-level priorities to raise the maturity in cyber crisis management and reduce the impact of potential cyber crises.

Currently cyber crisis management at EU level lacks the proper mechanisms and consistency to support effectively the EU-wide cyber community in the event of a cyber crisis, the report said.

“The message we try to pass on with this study is that the effective mitigation of any type of crisis caused by cyber incidents does not only depend on the mitigation of the impacts of that crisis,” said Udo Helmbrecht, executive director of Enisa.

“It also depends very much on the effective mitigation of the cyber incidents that caused it. Today, EU decision-makers are in the privileged position to take action before such a cyber crisis occurs, and this study offers an insight into what can be done.”

Enisa recommendations:

  • The revision of current EU legislation on cyber crisis management to “better reflect the distinction between cause and effect” and “better leverage on the development of the cyber crisis management field” as an essential tool for the mitigation of crises caused by cyber incidents.
  • EU member states should develop and formally adopt an EU-level crisis management plan, specific to the crises induced by cyber security incidents.
  • The creation of an EU-level pool of cyber experts with the primary objective to exchange information and best practices.
  • The development and adoption of EU-level cyber standard operating procedures.
  • The design and development an EU-level cyber crisis co-operation platform to offer support to cyber crisis management and co-operation activities between member states in conjunction with the Core Service Platform of the Cyber Security Digital Services Infrastructure.

Enisa said it is “fully committed” to supporting the European Commission and the EU member states in implementing these recommendations.

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