Weak states leave EU open to cyberattack
But UK is well defended
By John E. Dunn | Techworld | Published: 14:40, 18 March 2010
EU states need to work far more closely with one another to have any chance of fending off the sort of cyberattacks that caused huge problems for Estonia in 2007, a House of Lords report has said.
According to the Protecting Europe against large-scale cyber-attacks report, the Estonian cyberwar of April that year was the model of the sort of attacks that were likely to hit the EU in the next few years, featuring a highly-connected society dependant on the Internet that also lacks adequate defences against DDoS (distributed denial of service) and botnets.
The committee's report shies away from naming which EU states were rated by the experts it spoke to as giving cause for concern, but hints more than once that that Eastern European is a particularly weak link in an otherwise quite strong chain.
That could be any of ten states in theory, but refers most likely to the smaller and poorer ones, so read Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. Estonia, meanwhile, has learned its lesson and is believed to have upped its defences.
The UK was rated highly for cyber-defence, and described as having one of the region's most sophisticated defences, which is where the committee's recommendations start. Countries such as the UK need to be used as a template for cyber-defence across the EU. The strong countries need to advise the weaker ones and help bring them up to scratch, said the Lords committee.
One way that this could be done in smaller states would be to set up national CERTs (computer emergency response teams), although the Lords noted that expert submissions were against doing this in the UK which already has an efficient if devolved CERT system.
They also recommended that the EU should press ahead with plans to carry out resilience exercises on the Internet and phone system, and work more closely with NATO on cyber-defence.
The committee was critical at the lack of interest shown by private-sector ISPs in the issues it studied - only one small Dutch ISP made a submission - and question why the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) was based in the hard-to-reach city of Heraklion in Crete.
The Estonian attack has come to be seen as a wake-up call. Only this week, the country's defence minister predicted that such attacks would spread to larger countries. The problem was the difficulty of proving where such attacks originated, something which made it easier for some countries and agencies to contemplate.