The EU and US evaluate cyber defences

The first joint cyber security exercise between the EU and the US was held earlier this month in Brussels.

Nov 17, 2011
By Paul Jacques

The first joint cyber security exercise between the EU and the US was held earlier this month in Brussels.

In practical terms, the EU contribution to Cyber Atlantic 2011 has been enabled by the European Commission, with key support from ENISA, the European Network and Information Security Agency. The Department of Homeland Security has been the lead for the US.

The objective was to use simulated cyber-crisis scenarios to explore how the EU and US would engage with each other and cooperate in the event of cyber-attacks on their critical information infrastructures.

The exercise drew on lessons learnt in the first pan-European cyber security ‘stress test’ exercise, Cyber Europe 2010, organised last year by ENISA.

In the first scenario, a targeted stealthy cyber-attack – advanced persistent threat (APT) – attempts to exfiltrate and publish online secret information from EU Member States’ cyber security agencies. The second simulation focuses on the disruption of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems in power generation infrastructures. Twenty of the 27 EU member states were involved in the exercise with 16 of them actively participating in the drill.

Neelie Kroes, European Commission vice-president for the Digital Agenda said: “Recent high-profile cyber attacks show that global threats need global action. Today’s exercise provides valuable lessons for specialists on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Cyber Atlantic 2011 is part of an EU-US commitment to cyber security which was made at the EU-US summit in Lisbon on November 20, 2010. The aims are to “tackle new threats to the global networks upon which the security and prosperity of free societies increasingly depend”.

Meanwhile, Google has reported a sharp rise in government requests for user details and to take down content on the grounds of national security or other legal reasons.

According to the latest Google Transparency Report, the biggest jump in requests came from the UK with almost a 71 per cent increase from the previous six months. The Government has requested 113 items be taken down for privacy, inciting violence or hate speech and ‘other’ that include court orders. In addition, the Government has also asked for information about 12,000 Google user accounts.

The internet giant said it has complied with 82 per cent of the UK Government’s requests.

“The Government takes the threat of online extremist or hate content very seriously,” said a Home Office spokesperson defending the Government’s requests.

“Where unlawful content is hosted in the UK, the police have the power to seek its removal and where hosted overseas, we work closely with our international partners to effect its removal.”

The US Government continues to produce the most demands with over 113 requests to take down content as well as requesting information about 11,000 Google user accounts. This is a jump of about 25 per cent from the requests in the previous six months ending December 2010.

Google said that it only removes content when there is a “clear case” for it.

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