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Security of 5G networks: EU Member States complete national risk assessments

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Following the Commission Recommendation for a common European approach to the security of 5G networks, 24 EU Member States have now completed the first step and submitted national risk assessments. These assessments will feed into the next phase, a EU-wide risk assessment which will be completed by 1 October. Commissioner for the Security Union, Julian King, and Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, welcomed this important step forward and said:

“We are pleased to see that most Member States have now submitted their risk assessments. Following the support expressed by the European Council on 22 March for a concerted approach, Member States responded promptly to our call for concrete measures to help ensure the cybersecurity of 5G networks across the EU. The national risk assessments are essential to make sure that Member States are adequately prepared for the deployment of the next generation of wireless connectivity that will soon form the backbone of our societies and economies.

We urge Member States to remain committed to the concerted approach and to use this important step to gain momentum for a swift and secure rollout of 5G networks. Close EU-wide cooperation is essential both for achieving strong cybersecurity and for reaping the full benefits, which 5G will have to offer for people and businesses.

The completion of the risk assessments underlines the commitment of Member States not only to set high standards for security but also to make full use of this groundbreaking technology. We hope that the outcomes will be taken into account in the process of 5G spectrum auctions and network deployment, which is taking place across the EU now and in the coming months. Several Member States have already taken steps to reinforce applicable security requirements while others are considering introducing new measures in the near future.

We need all key players, big and small, to accelerate their efforts and join us in building a common framework aimed at ensuring consistently high levels of security. We look forward to continuing our close cooperation with Member States as we begin the work on an EU-wide risk assessment, due to be complete by 1 October, that will help to develop a European approach to protecting the integrity of 5G.”

National risk assessments include an overview of:

·    the main threats and actors affecting 5G networks;

·    the degree of sensitivity of 5G network components and functions as well as other assets; and

·    various types of vulnerabilities, including both technical ones and other types of vulnerabilities, such as those potentially arising from the 5G supply chain.

In addition, the work on national risk assessments involved a range of responsible actors in the Member States, including cybersecurity and telecommunication authorities and security and intelligence services, strengthening their cooperation and coordination.

Next Steps

Based on the information received, Member States, together with the Commission and the EU Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA), will prepare a coordinated EU-wide risk assessment by 1 October 2019. In parallel, ENISA is analysing the 5G threat landscape as an additional input. 

By 31 December 2019, the NIS Cooperation Group that leads the cooperation efforts together with the Commission will develop and agree on a toolbox of mitigating measures to address the risks identified in the risk assessments at Member State and EU level.

Following the recent entry into force of the Cybersecurity Act at the end of June, the Commission and the EU Agency for Cybersecurity will set up an EU-wide certification framework. Member States are encouraged to cooperate with the Commission and the EU Agency for Cybersecurity to prioritise a certification scheme covering 5G networks and equipment.

By 1 October 2020, Member States should assess in cooperation with the Commission, the effects of measures taken to determine whether there is a need for further action. This assessment should take into account the coordinated European risk assessment.

Background

Fifth generation (5G) networks will form essential digital infrastructure in the future, connecting billions of objects and systems, including in critical sectors such as energy, transport, banking, and health, as well as industrial control systems carrying sensitive information and supporting safety systems.

The European Commission recommended on 26 March 2019 a set of concrete actions to assess cybersecurity risks of 5G networks and to strengthen preventive measures, following the support from Heads of State or Government for a concerted approach to the security of 5G networks.

The Commission called on Member States to complete national risk assessments and review national measures as well as to work together at EU level on a coordinated risk assessment and a common toolbox of mitigating measures.

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Online game showcases plight of our planet’s disappearing coral reefs

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One of the world’s leading producers of online word games joined a global effort to help protect the planet’s coral reefs, which a new report finds are disappearing at an alarming rate.

Sweden’s MAG Interactive has unveiled six ocean-themed games to educate people about the ocean, coral reefs and climate change risks. The games will be launched in Wordzee, Ruzzle, Word Domination, WordBrain, WordBrain 2 and New QuizDuel.

Players are encouraged to either add their name to the petition for greater ocean and climate action and/or donate to projects associated with the Global Fund for Coral Reefs that are working to protect ocean health.

MAG Interactive is part of United Nations Environment Programmes’s (UNEP’s) Playing for the Planet Alliance that brings together gaming companies worldwide with a monthly active player base of more than 1.5 billion and a common goal of improving the environment through play.

The initiative has seen developers, including the popular Rovio Angry Birds, integrate environmental messages into their games to support the global environmental agenda, ranging from planting millions of trees to reducing plastic in their products.

Gaming companies are also supporting the Playing4Forests pledge, asking world leaders to protect forests as a line of defence against climate change.

“We couldn’t be more excited to join hands with MAG Interactive and Playing for the Planet partners, to raise awareness and resources for our planet’s precious coral reefs on the front line of climate change,” said Leticia Carvalho, Head of Marine and Freshwater at UNEP.

“Many people have no idea of the value of coral reefs to the well being of species and humans alike. Gaming can be transformational in inspiring this learning and action journey,” she added.

While they may look like plants or hard rocks, most corals are made up of thousands of small, soft-bodied animals, called polyps, surrounded by stony exoskeletons. Coral reefs support a quarter of all marine life. They also provide at least half a billion people with jobs and food while protecting coastlines from storms and flooding.

Coral reefs are also extremely sensitive to climate change. Corals have shown the most rapid increase in extinction risk of all the species assessed by the Global Biodiversity Outlook.

When waters get too warm, corals release the symbiotic algae turning white, a process known as bleaching. While corals can recover from bleaching if conditions improve, prolonged coral bleaching can be fatal.

The Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2020, released last week by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network in partnership with UNEP, found that 14 per cent of the world’s coral has been lost since 2009, and climate change is threatening what remains of these fragile ecosystems, often call the “rainforests of the sea.”

In the last 12 years, around 11,700 square kilometres of coral has disappeared. That is more than all the living coral in Australia.

But there is still hope for corals. Across the globe, scientists are identifying pockets of coral habitats that have greater resilience to climate change and may provide the key to their survival. The research shows that incorporating coral safe havens, known as climate refugia, into conservation plans is vital for ensuring their future survival as we work to halt and reverse current threats.

“Our goal is to create engaging content for our players while spreading an important message, that they have the power to help preserve marine ecosystems,” said Daniel Hasselberg, CEO of MAG Interactive.

MAG Interactive, whose ten game titles have been downloaded over 350 million times, developed the ocean-themes games based on the UNEP-led campaign Glowing Glowing Gone.

The creative campaign works to curb the threats to coral reefs, which along with climate change are under siege from overfishing, coastal development, pollution and ocean acidification.

The debut of the ocean-themed games preceded the recent announcement of US$125 million earmarked for the Global Fund for Coral Reefs to address critical financing and private investment barriers centered around the blue economy and to protect coral reefs. As the Global Climate Fund’s first at-scale private sector programme in climate adaptation, this investment signifies a major achievement for coral and climate resilience.

UN Environment

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EU Digital COVID Certificate: a global standard with more than 591 million certificates

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Image source: European Commission

Commission adopted a report on the EU Digital COVID Certificate  and its implementation across the EU. The report shows that the EU certificate has been a crucial element in Europe’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 591 million certificates generated. The certificate, which covers COVID-19 vaccination, test and recovery, facilitates safe travel for citizens, and it has also been key to support Europe’s hard-hit tourism industry. The EU Digital COVID Certificate is a success worldwide: it has set a global standard and is currently the only system already in operation at international level. 43 countries across four continents are plugged into the system, and more will follow over the coming weeks and months.

As said by President Ursula von der Leyen in her 2021 State of the Union Address, the EU Digital COVID Certificate shows that “When we act together, we are able to act fast.”

The success of the EU Digital COVID Certificate system in figures:

  • EU Member States have issued more than 591 million EU Digital COVID Certificates
  • 43 countries are already connected to the EU system: 27 EU Member States, 3 European Economic Area (EEA) countries, Switzerland, and 12 other countries and territories. In total, the Commission was approached by 60 third countries interested in joining the EU system. Beyond the ones already connected, technical discussions are ongoing with 28 of these countries.
  • The air transport sector greatly benefited from the EU Digital COVID Certificate, which became operational just in time for the summer peak travel period. The association of Airports Council International (ACI Europe) reported that in July 2021 a total passenger volumes more than doubled compared to July 2020. ACI Europe attributes this change to the rollout of the EU Digital COVID Certificate along with the easing of travel restrictions.
  • According to an EU Parliament’s Eurobarometer survey, about two thirds (65%) of respondents agreed that the EU Digital COVID Certificate is the safest means for free travel in Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 20 EU Member States also use the EU Digital COVID Certificate for domestic purposes, such as for the access to large events and restaurants, cinemas and museums, with an additional national legal basis.

Members of the College said:

Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said: “The EU Digital COVID Certificate system has helped mitigate negative economic effects during the pandemic. It gave travellers the confidence to travel safely in the EU and boosted travel this summer. Europe has swiftly and successfully set an innovative, privacy-friendly global standard, in times of crisis, with many countries around the globe interested in joining the system.”

Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton added: “In record time, the European Union has set up a digital, secure and interoperable COVID certificate system. This has been a key driver for the recovery of the tourism ecosystem and its many small and family-owned businesses across Europe. Beyond that, the EU system is adopted by countries around the world, demonstrating how Europe can set global standards through decisive and coordinated action”,

Commissioner for Health, Stella Kyriakides underlined: “The EU Digital COVID Certificate is a symbol of an open and safe Europe. The quick roll-out of the system, not just in the EU but internationally, is an example of the EU cooperating and delivering in extraordinary circumstances. It is a strong European tool that has allowed us to move towards the reopening of our economies and societies and the exercise of free movement in a safe and coordinated way.”

Next steps

The Commission will continue to monitor closely the validity of vaccination and recovery certificates as well as the use of antibody and rapid antigen tests for recovery certificates, and reconsider options once new scientific guidance is received.

Technical work to improve the functionalities of the EU Digital COVID Certificate system will continue within the framework of the eHealth Network. The Commission will:

  • Continue its efforts to connect additional countries to the EU system;
  • Work with Member States at technical level to implement the EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation
  • Seek guidance from ECDC and European Medicines Agency (EMA) on relevant developments as regards the scientific evidence.

By 31 March 2022, the Commission will submit another report on the application of the Regulation. This report may be accompanied by a legislative proposal to extend the period of application of the Regulation, taking into account the evolution of the epidemiological situation. The Commission does not exclude that it will put forward such a proposal already at an earlier stage, in order to ensure that the necessary legislative procedure can be concluded sufficiently in time.

Background

On 14 June 2021, the European Parliament and the Council adopted Regulation on the EU Digital COVID Certificate. The Regulation requires the Commission to submit a report to the European Parliament and to the Council by 31 October 2021.

The Regulation sets out a common framework for the issuance, verification and acceptance of interoperable certificates for COVID-19 vaccination, test or recovery certificates to facilitate free movement of EU citizens and their family members during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is accompanied by Regulation (EU) 2021/954, which extends the EU Digital COVID Certificate framework to third-country nationals who are legally staying or residing in a Member State’s territory and who are entitled to travel to other Member States in accordance with EU law.

On 31 May, the Commission proposed an update to the Council Recommendation on the coordination of free movement restrictions in the EU, which were put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the epidemiological situation was improving and vaccination campaigns were speeding up all over the EU, the Commission proposed that Member States gradually ease travel measures, including most importantly for the holders of the EU Digital COVID Certificate. The Council agreed to the updated Recommendations on 14 June.

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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.

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 2017 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.Attackers may use phishing websites and emails with malicious links and attachments to steal banking information or blackmail organisations 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.

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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