Game Over for the EU?

, by Guillaume Chomette, Translated by Nelly Tsekova

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Game Over for the EU?

Cyber defense comprises the means given to a state to protect all of its activities and networks regulating sovereign services such as defense, energy and transport. Nowadays the development of the Internet and the increasing interconnection of networks poses a new challenge to the EU: confronting the threat of cyber war.

On 27 April 2007, Estonia experienced a general computer invasion paralyzing the country’s public services in the context of latent tensions with the Kremlin. Estonian leaders immediately attributed the attacks to Russian authorities, which, in turn, denied causing these computer disturbances. However, the army of the former Soviet Union seems to have used the tool: already in 2008, the Russians’ ground invasion of Georgia was preceded by a very important cyber attack. On 14 June 2007, NATO defense ministers met in Brussels, issuing a statement on immediate common action. This action allowed to end attacks against Estonia in the autumn of 2007.

This attack resulted, in a number of military organizations worldwide, in a reconsideration of the importance of network security to modern military doctrine. And if Europe has taken little consideration of the importance of cyber weapons, we know that China currently employs whole battalions of professionals who seek loopholes in computer systems all over the planet. Tensions are high among the great powers experiencing cyber attacks daily, without knowing where the hackers in question, come from. However, can we speak of a global cyberwar?

Cyber warfare differs from conventional conflicts in the sense that it does not (at least directly) affect the life of human beings. This unconventional tactic is less expensive than real war but for the moment it does not offer the possibility to totally “overpower” an enemy. A cyber attack may be a prelude to a military operation in so far as it can deeply disrupt intelligence and communication services of enemy forces, and even enter the service enemy to know in advance his views. But today the advancement of technology does not establish a “Maginot Line” of cyber defense and constant work is needed to protect our cyber services networks. Protection of our networks and attack on those of the enemy requires a daily work and constant upgrading of digital equipment used, which leads to a significant cost.

Yet, every euro spent for protecting device information systems is profitable, because the majority of intrusions into computer systems on the planet have as their goal industrial espionage. Thus from the company AREVA was stolen critical data related to trade secret in a criminal penetration of its computer network in recent years.

The French government announced in July 2009 the creation of ANSSI (National Agency for the Security of Information Systems) to safeguard the strategic interests of the nation protecting its networks. In 2012, ANSSI included 250 people with a budget of 75 million euros, while its British (GCHQ) and German (BSI) counterparts have between 500 and 700 members and that Mr Cameron has pledged 750 million euros for 4 years to the Government Communication Headquarter to fight effectively against new threats to the United Kingdom in the field of cybernetics.

When you know how Mr Cameron was reluctant to sign the check for the EU budget, we immediately understand that the money allocated to UK ‘s cyber defense is far from being spent in vain!

The European Union shows wide disparity in the field of cyber defense: very equipped countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Estonia and France alongside other states lagging behind, such as the Netherlands. The establishment of a common strategy would be desirable in order to ensure that states have to support the protection of vital interests of their neighbors or industrial groups such as EADS joint without getting counterparties.

Prompt action could be taken to protect our networks:

 Prohibit by legislative means the very heart of Chinese network present in Europe (Huawei) that greatly facilitate industrial espionage our Chinese friends.
 Start the production of our own cyber defense tools (routers and software) to ensure the independence of the old continent in this area and why not create jobs in the process.

In an area where the economies of scale induced by the gathering of our cyber defense services would be major, yet it is NATO that’s going to build, at the heart of the European Union, in Estonia, its future cyber defense center. The old continent is, as always, averse to the idea of developing a defense tool that is independent of its big American brother.

Thus Estonians would form the team of specialists in cyber terrorism, cyber espionage and cyber defense for NATO in Tallinn while European experts will continue to work in isolation in their national offices.

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