Cybersecurity in the EU: Living within a paradox of progress

Why is cybersecurity becoming so important today? We are all familiar with the names of last year’s cyber-attacks, such Wannacry and Petya. 2018 kicked off with Meltdown and Spectre, two of the most damaging computer security flaws we’ve ever seen. But, accordingly to “Global Trends: The Paradox of Progress” – a report published by the US National Intelligence Council last year, which was discussed at a recent CEPS event – there is much more than increasing cyber-attacks. A new development that is beginning to define the times we live in – one that holds great promise but also great peril - is the changing nature of conflicts. Rather than defeating enemy forces on the battlefield through traditional military means, today’s conflicts increasingly emphasise the disruption of critical infrastructure and societal cohesion in order to secure psychological and geopolitical advantages. Cyber-attacks are effective weapons in such conflicts. Therefore, creating resilience and cyber-deterrence are necessary actions to defend our societies. The EU first embarked on IT security in 2006, but realising the need to catch-up with today’s much more challenging cybersecurity environment, it decided in September 2017 to launch a comprehensive package. Against this background, CEPS organised an event on January 17th to explore these developments more fully, with Heli Tiirmaa-Klaar, Head of Cyber Policy Coordination at the EEAS, and Lorenzo Pupillo, Head of the Cybersecurity@CEPS Initiative. The discussion pointed to the critical need for heightened cybersecurity awareness, common worldwide security standards, a stronger cyber diplomacy initiative from the EU. Different views were also expressed on the need for more centralised coordination of cybersecurity measure among EU member states.