The European Commission submitted a proposal on Wednesday, to pool resources and expertise sourced from its 27 member states, to form an overarching ‘internet police’ unit that will fight online criminals. The announcement comes amid a spate of highly publicized attacks across Europe and the world.
EU executives said that authorities need to have a way to respond collectively and share information on a ‘need to share’; basis, rather than the stingier ‘need to know’ basis. The commission’s Veep, Margaritis Schinas, said that offline and online threats have become indistinguishable.
Super-unit by 2023
She emphasized the need for the bloc to pool all its resources to defeat the threats presented by cyberspace, adding that it would enhance the EU’s operational capacity. The cyber unit is expected to be operational by June next year and fully functional by 2023.
Funding is expected to come from a program the commission set up for digital technology and possibly from its defence research and development fund. Members of the cyber unit will come from the EU’s Agency for Cybersecurity, experts from member states, Europol’s European Cybercrime Center, the European Defense Agency, and the EU foreign service EEAS.
A clear and present danger
Earlier this June, Poland reported an extensive cyberattack, with possible Russian origins. It was conducted against the top government officials. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) in December last year, said that some documents related to the US-based drug company Pfizer, and its German partner BioNTech, had been exposed during the hack.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the US has seen successive ransomware attacks that affected major industries like food processing and energy, showing that cybercriminals are not shy about attacking crucial infrastructure and pose a threat that needs to be faced down with overwhelming technical expertise, which the unit will be able to do.