European Data Security Agency Hopes to Preemptively Prepare EU for Cyber-Crisis


After experiencing crisis after crisis over the last few years—from financial crises, terrorism crises and refugee management crises—the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) is hoping to prevent Europe from adding cybersecurity crises to that list.

In its Report on Cyber Crisis Cooperation and Management, ENISA found that despite years of attempting to establish frameworks and standard operating procedures, cybersecurity incidents of the crisis-magnitude lack consistent European Union-level response mechanisms. To be fair, there has been only one incident that has been labeled a “cyber-crisis”—the 2007 cyberattack in Estonia that was thought to be perpetrated by Russia.

ENISA analyzed the legal and operational frameworks of EU-level crisis management in five sectors: aviation, border control, civil protection, counter terrorism and disease control. It found that clearly defined roles and responsibilities of important actors increased the efficiency of crisis response, but a lack of trust in areas touching on national sovereignty is impeding cooperation. 

A fundamental paradigm shift in how crises are perceived also presents a problem for EU cybersecurity crisis management, according to ENISA’s report. Crises are traditionally measured by the severity of the impact, but a “cyber-crisis” is defined by the cause of the crisis—delivered through cyberspace—while the impact is on a sector defined by its nature, e.g. energy sector or telecom sector. ENISA concluded that EU legislation will have to correct this problem by focusing on both the impacts and causes when managing the crisis. ENISA gave a shout out to the proposed Network and Information Security Directive for moving in this direction with its recommended Computer Security Incidence Response Teams.

The report criticized individual Member States for not making multinational crisis management a priority, and recommended that crisis management should remain a Member State prerogative. However, it found that there is “significant added value for EU Member States when EU Agencies act as a facilitator for information sharing and resource pooling.”

ENISA concluded that best practices from the EU’s sectoral crisis management experience suggest that an EU-level entity that can coordinate Member State expertise and cultivate trust is the way to move forward. To this end, ENISA recommended that the European Commission “fund an effort to design and develop an EU-level Cyber Crisis Cooperation platform to offer support to cyber crisis management cooperation” for Member States.

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