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Oleg Zhdan. Modern cyber strategy of the European Union: goals, objectives, potential adversaries

Most of the European Union member countries are members of NATO, thus, they are involved in the implementation of the cyber strategy of the North Atlantic bloc. At the same time, the European Union and its member countries are developing their own cyber strategy.


Cyber strategy of the European Union

On February 7, 2013 representatives of the European Commission and EU agencies, which are involved in foreign affairs and defense policy, presented cyber security strategy of the European Union “An Open, Safe and Secure Cyber space” [1]. The document provides a holistic vision of how to prevent cyber attacks and how to respond to them.

The goal of this strategy is to increase the resilience and capacity building in the field of cyber security of EU member states (strengthening the fight against cybercrime, building an effective security infrastructure, developing principles for international cyber security policies)[2].

On September 10, 2014 the Cyber Security Coordination Group (CSCG), European Committee for Standardization (CEN), the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC) and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) published recommendations on cyber security [3]. Recommendations are systematized in three areas: governance, harmonization and global dimension.

On July 6, 2016 the European Union adopted the first law on cyber security (Network and Information Security Directive) [4], which sets out the obligations in terms of cyber security of critical infrastructure. Withholding information is subject to government sanctions.


Cyber strategy of the Federal Republic of Germany

Germany established a whole network of government departments that deal with issues of information security and cyber security.

Firstly, since January 1, 1991, the Federal Office for Information Security (Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik – BSI), which is an integral part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, operates in Bonn and has about 600 employees [5].

Secondly, on April 1, 2011, the National Cyberdefence Center (Nationales Cyber-Abwehrzentrum, NCAZ), located at the head office of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), began operating in Bonn [6]. Current staff accounts for 10 people. NCAZ brings together the cyber defense facilities of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz), BSI, the Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst, BND), the Federal Defence (Bundeswehr), and other services and agencies.

Thirdly, on April 1, 2017, the Cyber and Information Space Unit (Das Kommando Cyber- und Informationsraum / KdoCIR) began its work in Bonn [7]. Henceforth, the German cyber forces are formed with a status equal to land, air and naval forces (to date, the Ministry of Internal Affairs was responsible for the cyber defense in the country). 260 people will work in the center. 13,500 military and civilian personnel will come under the command until July 1, 2017. Currently, an advertising campaign is being conducted, in which the Bundeswehr is positioned as a modern and attractive place for work of specialists in the field of cyber security [8]. The new unit will become fully operational by 2021 [9].

A new type of troops will ensure the Bundeswehr information systems security and protect against hacking of armaments that use digital technologies. The smallest unit responsible for cyber-attacks will comprise only 60 servicemen.  It will be necessary to enlist the mandate of the Bundestag in order to conduct cyber attacks. Nevertheless, the attack is considered only as a last resort [10].

Moreover, it is important to note that in 2009 the Federal Republic of Germany adopted the Act to Strengthen the Security of Federal Information Technology [11].

In February 2011, the “Cyber Security Strategy for Germany” was approved [12]. Over the years, many of the tasks set out in this document have been implemented. At the same time, new challenges and threats have emerged in the field of cyber security. In this regard, a new “Cyber Security Strategy for Germany 2016” (Cyber-Sicherheitsstrategie für Deutschland 2016) was approved [13].

The document notes that with the digitization of modern society, its vulnerability in cyber space is increasing. The consequences of cyber attacks are not limited to cyber space. Successful cyber attacks can inflict social, economic, political and personal damage. Attacks on state institutions for the purpose of espionage or sabotage can have a significant impact on the functioning of the government, the armed forces and security agencies, and thus – on public security and order. Cyber ​​attacks on the power grid can lead to a stalemate of large segments of public and private life. Cyber ​​attacks on banks or the manipulation of market prices can have far-reaching consequences for the German and world economy [14].

Based on this, the government of the Federal Republic of Germany puts the following spheres at the center of its cyber policy: 1) safe and autonomous work in the digital environment; 2) joint needs of cyber security of the state and economy; 3) a powerful and sustainable national cyber security architecture; 4) Germany’s active positioning in European and international cyber security policies [15].

Nevertheless, there are many outstanding issues in Germany.

Firstly, these are issues of cyber security in the political sphere. In particular, on March 29, 2017, unknown hackers attempted to intrude the internal computer network of the Bundestag.

Secondly, these are issues of cyber security in the military sphere. Thus, almost 300 thousand cyber attacks were committed on the Bundeswehr computers only in the first 9 weeks of 2017 [16].

Thirdly, these are the cyber security problems of the country’s critical infrastructure. In particular, on March 14, 2017, during a meeting with members of the Association of Regional Utilities, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of the threat of cyber attacks to Germany’s infrastructure [17]. According to F-Secure, 3 out of 4 cyber attacks on infrastructure in Germany are carried out from Russian servers (followed by China (7.5%), France, Vietnam and the US (3% each) [18] .

Fourthly, many German politicians are seriously concerned about the interference of the “Russian hackers” in the course of parliamentary elections in Germany.

Cyber strategy of the United Kingdom

In 2009 the UK adopted cyber security strategy (Cyber Security Strategy of the United Kingdom safety, security and resilience in cyber space [19]). The document notes that the security of cyber space is becoming increasingly critical. Threats for those who use cyber space range from phishing to corporate espionage. These actions can affect organizations, individuals, critical infrastructure and government business.

The document emphasizes that it “is aimed at all those people who work, communicate or interact using cyber space, and therefore have a responsibility for maintaining and improving its security; this includes individual members of the public, organizations across all sectors, and the Government. It will guide the Government’s partnership approach domestically and internationally. Citizens, business and government can enjoy the full benefits of a safe, secure and resilient cyber space: working together, at home and overseas, to understand and address the risks, to reduce the benefits to criminals and terrorists, and to seize opportunities in cyber space to enhance the UK’s overall security and resilience [20]”.

On March 26, 2017, Home Secretary Amber Rudd stated that terrorists can use the WhatsApp messenger, where messages are encrypted, to organize their criminal activities. According to A.Rudd, the authorities should ensure that the intelligence services have the ability to read messages transmitted in encrypted form via the WhatsApp system and through other messengers [21].

A week later, the British airports and NPPs have been warned about the need to strengthen cyber defense with respect to the increased level of threats to electronic security systems. According to the state authorities, terrorists, foreign spies and “hacktivists” can investigate the Internet protection system of the nuclear industry for vulnerabilities [22].

In the meantime, the United Kingdom pays special attention to the “Russian threat”. In particular, on March 12, 2017, the special services informed the British political parties about the need to protect themselves from possible Russian cyber attacks (while the secret services stated about absence of evidence that the main risk for cyber security comes from the Russian Federation) [23]. At the same time, according to the British special services, China is a significant threat to the cyber security of the UK [24].

On April 29, 2017, the UK government increased the readiness of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which is engaged in electronic intelligence. These measures are caused by the threat of cyber-attacks during the general elections scheduled for June 8, 2017. The chiefs of intelligence agencies at the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) were recommended to treat the risk of a foreign or organized crime attack that affects the democratic institutions of the country as a “terrorist crisis” [25].


Cyber strategy of Estonia

Estonia is one of the European leaders in the field of cyber security. NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence is located exactly in Tallinn.  On November 25, 2016 President Kersti Kaljulaid, during her visit to the Center, stated: “There is not the slightest doubt that cyber space is comparable to sea, air and water as a battlefield” [26].

Estonia is actively developing its own resources in the field of cyber security. Thus, in June 2011 Estonian Informatics Centre was transformed into the Estonian Information System Authority (ISA), which develops the state information system as a single entity [27]. Only in 2016 ISA dealt with 9135 cases in the computer networks in Estonia, 348 of them influenced the functioning of a national vital service or website [28].

On April 14, 2017, members of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) formed the Cyber Security Support Group. The purpose of the group is to support the scope of the cyber government, to strengthen cooperation between the private and public sectors, and to raise public awareness about cyber security [29].


Conclusions and generalizations

Firstly, as follows from this brief, the European Union as a whole and individual European states in particular are seriously concerned about their cyber security.

Secondly, the cyber strategies of the EU and its member states emphasize the need for joint efforts of the state, society, business and all citizens in the field of combating cyber threats.

Thirdly, the hierarchy of priorities in the field of cyber security has recently changed significantly. If at the beginning of the XXI century the problems of combating international terrorist organizations, as well as the issues of industrial infrastructure security came to the forefront, then recently almost all European countries are concerned about the possible interference of the “Russian hackers” in their election campaigns.

Fourthly, and no less important, the cyberstrategies of a number of European states (Germany, Great Britain, etc.) allow not only defensive but also offensive actions in cyber space.


[1] Cybersecurity Strategy of the European Union: An Open, Safe and Secure Cyberspace (2013) //http://eeas.europa.eu/archives/docs/policies/eu-cyber-security/cybsec_comm_en.pdf.

[2] Кибербезопасность: рекомендации для ЕС //http://www.lawtrend.org/information-access/blog-information-access/kiberbezopasnost-rekomendatsii-dlya-es.

[3] White Paper No. 01 Recommendations for a Strategy on   European Cyber Security Standardisation (2014) //http://www.kigeit.org.pl/FTP/PRCIP/Literatura/079_CEN-CENELEC-ENSI-White_paper-Strategy_european_cybersecurity_standardisation.pdf.

[4] DIRECTIVE (EU) 2016/1148 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL  of 6 July 2016 //http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.L_.2016.194.01.0001.01.ENG&toc=OJ:L:2016:194:TOC.

[5] Organisationsübersicht des BSI. Aufgaben //https://www.bsi.bund.de/DE/DasBSI/Aufgaben/aufgaben_node.html.

[6] Wahrlich nicht furchteinflößend Was nun als Nationales Cyber-Abwehrzentrum gefeiert wird, ist wenig mehr als eine zusätzliche behördliche Schnittstelle //http://www.fr.de/politik/meinung/kommentar-zum-cyber-abwehrzentrum-wahrlich-nicht-furchteinfloessend-a-912544.

[7] Bundeswehr startet neues Cyberkommando //http://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2017-04/ursula-von-der-leyen-cyber-kommando-bundeswehr-bundestag-hans-peter-bartels.

[8] В Германии создали подразделение армии по борьбе с хакерами //http://www.bbc.com/russian/news-39466229.

[9] Никитин А. Бундесвер анонсировал создание кибервойск //https://vz.ru/news/2017/3/30/864266.html.

[10] Хакеры на службе государства: Германия создает киберармию //http://www.dw.com/ru/хакеры-на-службе-государства-германия-создает-киберармию/a-38312718.

[11] Gesetz zur Stärkung der Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik des Bundes //https://www.bsi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/BSI/BSI/bsiges2009_pdf.pdf;jsessionid=FDC8E6977A74FF13E0CFBF5BFE739411.2_cid351?__blob=publicationFile&v=1.

[12] Cyber-Sicherheitsstrategie für Deutschland //http://www.nato.diplo.de/contentblob/3067700/Daten/1132942/Cyber_strategie_dt_DLD.pdf.

[13] Cyber-Sicherheitsstrategie für Deutschland 2016 //https://www.bmi.bund.de/cybersicherheitsstrategie/BMI_CyberSicherheitsStrategie.pdf.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Von der Leyen: 4500 Cyberangriffe auf die Bundeswehr am Tag //https://www.welt.de/newsticker/news2/article163739618/Von-der-Leyen-4500-Cyberangriffe-auf-die-Bundeswehr-am-Tag.html.

[17] Меркель предупредила об угрозе кибератак на инфраструктуру Германии //http://www.securitylab.ru/news/485560.php.

[18] Drei von vier Hacker-Angriffe kommen aus Russland //http://www.t-online.de/computer/sicherheit/id_80738868/drei-von-vier-hacker-angriffe-kommen-aus-russland.html.

[19] Cyber Security Strategy  of the United Kingdom  safety, security and resilience in cyber space //https://www.enisa.europa.eu/topics/national-cyber-security-strategies/ncss-map/UK_Cyber_Security_Strategies.pdf.

[20] Ibid.

[21] МВД Великобритании осудило использование шифрования в мессенджерах //http://izvestia.ru/news/673833.

[22] Британские аэропорты и АЭС получили предписание усилить киберзащиту //http://www.securitylab.ru/news/485775.php.

[23] GCHQ: Russian cyber‑threat to British elections //https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/gchq-russian-cyber-threat-touk-elections-20wl9s5ld.

[24] Russia steps up cyber‑attacks on UK //https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/russia-steps-up-cyber-attacks-on-uk-rl262pnlb.

[25] Threat of election hack puts GCHQ on high alert // https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/threat-of-election-hack-puts-gchq-on-high-alert-xwl0d62gl.

[26] Кальюлайд: киберпространство как поле боя сравнимо с морем, воздухом и водой //http://rus.delfi.ee/daily/estonia/kalyulajd-kiberprostranstvo-kak-pole-boya-sravnimo-s-morem-vozduhom-i-vodoj?id=76393313.

[27] Новое ведомство повысит уровень кибербезопасности Эстонии //http://rus.delfi.ee/daily/estonia/novoe-vedomstvo-povysit-uroven-kiberbezopasnosti-estonii?id=34499153.

[28] Cyber Security Support Group was formed in the Riigikogu // https://m.riigikogu.ee/en/press-releases/others/cyber-security-support-group-formed-riigikogu/.

[29] Ibid.