EU's cybersecurity strategy under fire before Thursday reveal

Industry, politicians and digital rights groups are all taking issue with the plan

By Jennifer Baker, IDG News Service |  IT Management

The European Commission's long-awaited Cyber Security Strategy will be presented on Thursday and as written, it would force private companies, so-called "enablers of information society services," to report all data breaches or cyber security incidents to national authorities.

With leaked drafts of the text circulating in Brussels, the strategy has come under fire before it has even been formally announced. Industry leaders are worried that extending the scope of reporting mandates could harm business, while European digital rights group EDRi said that the move would give national authorities access to "sufficient information from almost everyone online" in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The next step in implementing the strategy is a planned Directive on Network and Infrastructure Security that will need to be approved by the European Parliament and the European Union member states.

Voluntary regulation has not worked, a European Commission official said. Therefore member states will be required to designate a contact agency that is responsible for interacting with other agencies in the E.U. "We would expect such agencies to include experts who can forensically analyze malware," said the official. E.U. member states will also be asked to guarantee minimum capabilities to respond adequately to threats.

So-called enablers of information society services, which would include companies such as PayPal, Google, Amazon, eBay and Skype, would have to notify authorities of data-privacy breaches or "incidents with a significant impact" on services, such as natural disasters, extreme weather and cases of human error, as well as cyberattacks. There must be consequences if this is not done, said the Commission official, but it is up to the member states what sort of sanctions they want to implement.

Meanwhile Dutch Member of the European Parliament, Sophie in 't Veld said the strategy was "incoherent, lacking in focus and a complete hotchpotch."

"It looks like almost every Directorate General (department) in the Commission wanted to write its own bit of the strategy. It bothers me that all these different policy areas are being lumped together in one document. It covers so much, from internet fraud and illegal downloading, to child pornography and international security," she said.

"The lines are being blurred and we need to safeguard the fundamental rights we expect in a democracy and not cede disproportionate powers to law enforcement," said In't Veld.

The Commission draft text says that "synergies between civilian and military approaches in protecting critical cyber assets should be enhanced" and adds that the Budapest convention on cybercrime should serve as a model for future plans. But, said the official, "we are not China, we are not trying to use cyber security to control what is on the web."

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