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EU reveals new cybersecurity strategy with plans for a joint unit and an AI-enabled Cyber Shield

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The new strategy will include an EU-wide Cyber Shield and a Joint Cyber Unit
The new strategy will include an EU-wide Cyber Shield and a Joint Cyber Unit   -   Copyright  Jenny Kane/AP
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An EU-wide Cyber Shield and Joint Cyber Unit were just some of the plans unveiled on Wednesday as part of Europe's bolstered cybersecurity strategy.

EU High Representative Josep Borrell, Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas and Commissioner Thierry Breton laid out the strategy at a press conference in Brussels, promising it would strengthen the "collective resilience against cyber threats" across the bloc.

Among the initiatives is the use of AI-enabled Security Operations Centres established across the EU to create a "Cyber Shield" that detects signs of attack and can launch early preventative action.

Another is the creation of a Joint Cyber Unit to ensure better protection from harmful and cross-border cyber attacks.

"We are seeing a pattern of attacks that has to do with our health infrastructure systems, with critical functions of the European Union, against our institutions," Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President of the European Commission told Euronews.

"So I think people are increasingly becoming aware that this is a new field, an evolving threat landscape."

It comes just days after the European Medicines Agency said documents related to a COVID-19 vaccine were accessed after their system was hacked.

What else is in the strategy?

  • New European solutions to strengthen global internet security
  • A regulation to push forward to an Internet of Secure Things
  • A better diplomacy toolbox to prevent, deter and respond to attacks
  • Enhanced cooperation for cyber defence
  • Increased dialogue about cyber security with countries outside the EU, along with international organisations such as NATO
  • The creation of an EU External Cyber Capacity Building Agenda and an EU inter-institutional Cyber Capacity Building Board

The €2 billion strategy will be funded under the EU's Digital Europe Programme and Horizon Europe, with investments from member states and industry to be added.

It also comes as experts predict the number of connected devices around the world will have risen to 25 billion by 2025. A quarter of these devices are expected to be in Europe.

Alessandro Gropelli, Director of Strategy & Communications at the European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association (ETNO) welcomed the EU Commission's proposals.

"A lot of sectors are being captured into the scope of these new rules - from manufacturing to data and cloud, to your zoom connection, to government IT systems," Gropelli said.

"Just think how important they are in our days when we talk about vaccines or contact tracing apps and so on. Awareness is coming and awareness is the key fact."

The COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated a change in working patterns as 40% EU workers have switched to remote locations this year.

This is then compared with the two-fifths of EU users who have experienced security-related issues, and the 12.5% of businesses affected by cyberattacks.

By the end of 2020, the annual cost of cybercrime to the global economy is estimated to be around €5.5 trillion - double the cost in 2015.

"International security and stability depends more than ever on a global, open, stable and secure cyberspace where the rule of law, human rights, freedoms and democracy are respected," said Borrell.

"With today's strategy, the EU is stepping up to protect its governments, citizens and businesses from global cyber threats, and to provide leadership in cyberspace, making sure everybody can reap the benefits of the internet and the use of technologies."