The European Union will set up a new cyber response unit


The European Commission (EC) has established plans to establish a new Joint Cyber ​​Unit to respond to a high and growing number of cyber incidents affecting public services, private organizations and citizens, in the 27 Member States of the European Union ( EU).

Reflecting a growing trend in government-led responses to cybersecurity incidents, the EC said all EU states must be prepared to collectively respond and exchange information more proactively.

Announced by the President of the EC, Ursula von der Leyen, the Joint Cyber ​​Unit will bring together the resources and expertise at the disposal of the bloc to prevent, deter and respond to large-scale cyber incidents, establishing new guidelines and best practices for collaboration between civilian law enforcement, diplomats and cyber defense communities, as well as the private sector. It will provide a “virtual and physical cooperation platform to gradually build a European platform of solidarity and assistance to counter large-scale cyber attacks”.

In addition to contributing operational resources for mutual assistance, sharing best practices and threat intelligence, Member States will also work at an operational and technical level to put in place a pan-European cybersecurity incident and crisis response plan. , establish and mobilize rapid reaction teams, facilitate new protocols for mutual assistance, and establish national and cross-border surveillance and detection capabilities and security operations centers (SOCs).

“Common Cyber ​​Unity is a very important step for Europe to protect its governments, citizens and businesses from global cyber threats,” said Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Policy. security.

“When it comes to cyber attacks, we are all vulnerable and that is why cooperation at all levels is crucial. There is neither big nor small. We must stand up for ourselves, but we must also serve as a beacon for others in promoting a global, open, stable and secure cyberspace. “

Margaritis Schinas, Vice President for Promotion of the European Way of Life, added: “The recent ransomware attacks should serve as a warning that we must protect ourselves against threats that could compromise our security and our European way of life.

“Today we can no longer distinguish between online and offline threats. We must pool all our resources to overcome cyber risks and strengthen our operational capacity. Building a trusted and secure digital world, based on our values, requires the commitment of everyone, including law enforcement. “

The EC said the creation of the unit would be an important step towards the completion of a European crisis management framework for cybersecurity and a concrete outcome of the EU cybersecurity strategy and strategy. for the Security Union – as part of the progress towards which the Commission has many other reports this week on the implementation of various security-related frameworks, as well as a final decision on the establishment of the EU Cybersecurity Agency (Enisa) in Brussels.

It is planned to bring the Joint Cyber ​​Unit into the operational phase by the end of June 2022 and put it in place within a year. Enisa will provide the secretariat for the preparatory phase. Funding will be provided by the EC Digital Europe Program, while additional contributions may be taken from the European Defense Fund.

In evaluating the proposals, Steve Forbes, government cybersecurity expert at Nominet, said the plans were very welcome news. “The new effort includes rapid response teams ready to be deployed in the event of an attack, as well as a revolutionary platform for collaboration across the European Union, including intelligence, resources and expertise.” , did he declare. “This is exactly what it takes to stem the tide of attacks that only get more brazen and sophisticated.

“Until now, it has been reported that countries are reluctant to relinquish any control over their national security and this is quite understandable considering that cyber is increasingly seen alongside methods of defense. traditional ones, such as the army, navy and air force … There is, however, common ground, where countries can benefit from centralized intelligence, comprehensive strategies and far-reaching tactics.

“With similar threats facing the EU – especially against critical infrastructure – often with the same adversaries, coming together will allow the bloc to make significant changes in its cyber defense.

Forbes added, “The new cyber unit will set a powerful precedent for international collaboration as a central part of our future global cyber defense. “

ImmuniWeb’s Ilia Koloshenko, who is also a member of Europol’s network of data protection experts, said that since international collaboration was needed to counter the upsurge in cybercrime, the EU’s proposal looked very promising. . But the plans may need to be further stepped up, he added.

“We must keep in mind that a coordinated defense, response and eventual prosecution of cybercrime is virtually impossible without cohesive global cooperation,” Koloshenko said. “EU countries may face the well-known challenges of foreign jurisdictions that continually refuse to extradite their citizens accused of cybercrime abroad.

“In addition, hacking groups in modern nation states increasingly criminalize some of their rivals, say neighboring countries, by hacking into their infrastructure and then proxy attacks through the breached systems.

“In the end, even the best forensic investigation will be misled and likely misjudge the attack. This uncertainty compromises cyber defense, as you risk counterattacking an innocent party, causing further escalation and violating international law. Therefore, I believe that the best way to protect EU countries from digital threats is to invest in national capacities for cyber resilience, to promote cybersecurity awareness among organizations of all sizes and to put implementing compulsory e-education in schools and universities.

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