“Cyber security is a shared responsibility: stop, think, connect”, a Sting Exclusive by EU Commissioner Gabriel

Gabriel European Commission

Press conference by Mariya Gabriel, Member of the EC in charge of Digital Economy and Society, on the Digital Europe programme. © European Union , 2018 / Photo: Lukasz Kobus.

This cutting-edge article on Cybersecurity was exclusively written for The Sting by the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Ms Mariya Gabriel. The opinions expressed hereby belong to our distinguished writer.

Most of us in Europe are fortunate to live in a world that is safe. From the food we eat to the homes we live in, our society is supported by a framework of rules, standards and habits that protect us, whatever we do in our daily lives.

But as those lives become increasingly digital, and so much of what we do is shared and connected, we need to feel just as safe in our online lives as in our offline ones. Even though much of the technology and practice is still relatively recent, there are already plenty of rules and customs in place to make sure that this happens.

Raising awareness of the simple rules to follow to make sure people stay safe online is one of the main aims of the EU’s cybersecurity month, which has run throughout October. The European Commission works closely with the EU Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) and with more than 300 partners throughout Europe to educate and inform citizens about the need for good cyber hygiene.

The slogan for this year’s campaign is ‘Cyber security is a shared responsibility – STOP. THINK. CONNECT!’ and each of the four thematic weeks has focused on how citizens can take responsibility for their own cybersecurity with the help of the tools and rules already in place at the national and European levels.

The first week was a crash-course in cyber hygiene – how to spot potential cyber risks and what to do to protect yourself from them. From Check My IP Week in Finland encouraging users to make sure they are surfing safely to a pizza and networking event on digital security for young Bulgarian entrepreneurs, the messages came in a variety of forms and languages, all serving the same basic need to remind businesses and individuals of the potential pitfalls that await them online.

Next came a week focused on digital skills and education, in particular in schools.  As part of the SaferInternet4EU initiative I launched earlier this year, European Schoolnet has designed a series of learning modules for teachers. School children from across the EU have learned about basis cyber skills such as password management, backing up data and the privacy settings.

The wider European public was the audience for the third week, which focused on how to recognise cyber scams, including events organised by groups as diverse as Microsoft and the French gendarmerie.

The final week of the month was dedicated to helping users keep up-to-date with the best cyber security practices in today’s fast-moving world. It put a focus on the latest emerging technologies securing cyberspace.

Throughout the month, a whole series of awareness-raising events targeted policy-makers and organisations – for example, on the potential cyber threat to critical infrastructures such as energy and transport networks or the banking system, or on the cybersecurity challenges we face as our lives become increasingly connected through the Internet of Things.

Cybersecurity month is the annual showcase for all the many and varied relevant activities across the whole EU and throughout the whole year. For example the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) network, which brings together partners (in particular the safer internet centres in every Member State) to make the internet a safer place for the under-18s, and for their teachers and families. One of the key services offered by the safer internet centres across the EU is a hotline that provides support on online problems such as cyberbullying, sexting and for reporting child sex abuse material online. The BIK network is also responsible for the year-round SaferInterner4EU campaign I mentioned earlier.

Keeping abreast of all the latest threats – and encouraging the development of solutions – is the key role of ENISA. Each year the agency produces a threat landscape report that provides an overview of threats, together with current and emerging trends. The report is based on publicly available data and provides an independent view on observed threats, threat agents and threat trends to help businesses prepare. At the same time, each year ENISA organises the

European Cybersecurity Challenge competition, which brings together young IT talents from all over the EU to compete to find the most effective solutions to the ever-growing number of threats.

Another European initiative, this time organised jointly by the Dutch police force’s National High Tech Crime Unit, Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre and the online security company McAfee, is called No More Ransom and aims to help victims of ransomware retrieve their encrypted data without having to pay the criminals. But since it is much easier to avoid the threat than to fight against it once the system is affected, the project also educates users about how ransomware works and what countermeasures can be taken to effectively prevent infection.

We are all of us under threat from something, every day of our lives. Yet most of us never even realise it, because the checks and balances are in place to keep us safe. And this is certainly true for cyber threats – most of the potential threats are identified and neutralised without anyone even knowing. But just because most of us feel safe buying our food in the supermarket or crossing the road does not mean we should not check the sell-by date or look both ways before stepping into the street. And the same goes for cyber threats! We all have a responsibility to take the necessary steps to make sure our cyber hygiene skills are up to the task – all year long.

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