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Why cybersecurity in the EU should matter to you

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From stolen data to blocked hospital systems: cyberattacks can have perilous consequences. Learn more about cybersecurity and its importance, Society.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of the economy and society, creating opportunities as well as challenges. By 2030, 125 billion devices could be connected to the internet, up from 27 billion in 2021 while 90% of people over six are expected to be online. As cyberspace is by design interconnected and digital and physical are increasingly intertwined, new dangers emerge.

Definitions

  • Cyberattacks are attempts to misuse information, by stealing, destroying or exposing it and they aim to disrupt or destroy computer systems and networks
  • Cybersecurity includes information and communication security, operational technology and the IT platforms required to ensure the safety of digital systems
  • Cyberdefence includes cybersecurity and threat analyses and strategies to protect against threats directed at citizens, institutions and governments

Cyber threats in the EU: personal and societal costs

The use of digital solutions has long been on the rise and teleworking, online shopping and keeping in touch online rose sharply during lockdown. These solutions can benefit consumers and support the economy and the post-Covid recovery. However, there has been a corresponding increase in malicious cyber activities.

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Attackers may use phishing websites and emails with malicious links and attachments to steal banking information or blackmail organizations after blocking their IT systems and data.

A secure cyberspace is the basis for the EU's digital single market: enabling solutions and unlocking its full potential by making people confident online. The 2019 Digital Economy and Society Index showed that security concerns limited or prevented 50% of EU internet users from performing online activities. The 2020 index indicated  that 39% of EU citizens who used the internet experienced security-related problems.

Learn more about how to protect yourself from cybercrime.

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The damage caused by cyberattacks goes beyond the economy and finance, affecting the very democratic foundations of the EU and threatening the basic functioning of society.

Essential services and critical sectors such as transport, energy, health and finance, have become increasingly dependent on digital technologies. This, together with the increase in physical objects connected to the Internet of things, can have direct consequences, including making cybersecurity a matter of life and death.

From cyberattacks on hospitals, causing them to postpone urgent medical procedures, to attacks on power grids and water supply - attackers are threatening the supply of essential services. And as cars and homes become increasingly connected, they could be threatened or exploited in unforeseen ways.

Cyberattacks, deployed with for example disinformation, economic pressure and conventional armed attacks, are testing the resilience of democratic states and institutions, directly targeting peace and security in the EU.

Cybersecurity in the EU

Businesses and organisations in the EU spend 41% less on cybersecurity than their US counterparts. The European Union has been working to strengthen cybersecurity to allow the EU to become a global cyber player. MEPs recently called for common EU cyber defence capabilities and are working to ensure a high common level of cybersecurity in the EU.

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Cyber Security

European Cybersecurity Month: ‘Think Before U Click'

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The ninth edition of the European Cybersecurity Month began on 1 October and will run for the entire month of October under the motto ‘Think Before U Click'. This is an annual awareness campaign organized by the Commission, the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) and over 300 partners in the member states, including local authorities, governments, universities, think tanks, NGOs and professional associations. Hundreds of activities, such as conferences, workshops, training sessions, presentations, webinars and online campaigns, will take place across Europe this year to promote cybersecurity among citizens and organisations and to provide up-to-date online security information through awareness raising and sharing of good practices.

A Europe Fit for the Digital Age Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager said: “We will not use technology if we don't trust it; and trust comes from feeling safe. That's why cybersecurity is really central to our digitalisation, and to the use of technology. Especially nowadays when due to the pandemic we have been doing so many things online: working, learning, shopping, and more. By adopting good cybersecurity habits, we are building a safe and secure digital life.”

Promoting our European Way of Life Vice President Margaritis Schinas said: “Cyber-attacks put at risk our businesses, our critical infrastructures, our data, the functioning of our democracies. Cyber criminals exploit the slightest vulnerability in our digital environment. The European Cybersecurity Month campaign aims at helping everyone acquire the necessary skills to shield ourselves and our way of life against cyber threats. The campaign's motto ‘Think Before U Click' is especially this year more relevant than ever.”

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Cyber awareness is one of the angles of the EU Cybersecurity Strategy announced in December last year. More information is available in this ENISA press release. Information about the events taking place across the member states is available in this interactive map, and awareness-raising material is available on the dedicated website. Follow the campaign on Twitter @CyberSecMonth with hashtags #CyberSecMonth and #ThinkB4Uclick, and on Facebook @CyberSecMonthEU.

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Cyber Security

Executive Vice President Vestager, Vice President Schinas and Commissioner Breton at the International Cybersecurity Forum in Lille

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A Europe Fit for the Digital Age Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, for and Promoting our European Way of Life Vice President Margaritis Schinas will participate in the International Cybersecurity Forum that is taking place until 9 September in Lille, France. The forum is one of the most important events in Europe on cybersecurity gathering European cybersecurity professionals and stakeholders to reflect and exchange views.

Vice-President Schinas delivered a keynote speech on 8 September in which he focused on the impact of the increasing number of sophisticated cyber-attacks on the daily lives of citizens and businesses. He also explained the importance of cybersecurity as part of the European Security Union.

Executive Vice President Vestager will participate in a fireside chat on 9 September where she will discuss cybersecurity as well as broader aspects of trust in the digital transformation and digital society, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), ethics and digital identity. Finally, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton will close the conference with a video message highlighting the EU Cybersecurity Strategy.

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A key component of Shaping Europe's Digital Future, the Recovery Plan for Europe  and the EU Security Union Strategy, the EU Cybersecurity Strategy aims to harness and strengthen all available tools and resources in the EU to ensure that European citizens and businesses are well protected, both online and offline, against increasing cyber threats and incidents. It was presented in December 2020 by the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Furthermore, in June 2021, the Commission laid out practical steps to build a new Joint Cyber Unit, which aims at bringing together resources and expertise available to the EU and its member states to effectively prevent, deter and respond to mass cyber incidents and crises.

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Cyber Security

Investment Plan for Europe supports development of next-generation cyber security platform

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The European Investment Bank (EIB) has signed a €15 million financing deal with Dutch cybersecurity company EclecticIQ, a leader in threat intelligence, hunting and response technology and services. The project is backed by a guarantee from the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the main pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe. The agreement will give EclecticIQ access to the funding it needs to further accelerate the development of its cybersecurity platform and expand internationally in a strategically important and rapidly growing market.

Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said: “As more and more business operations move online, strengthening cybersecurity is becoming ever more important. This support from the EIB, backed by the Investment Plan for Europe, will help EclecticIQ to further grow its activity in this crucial sector, developing its product portfolio and offering clients suitable solutions to effectively counter cyberthreats.”

The press release is available online.

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