Brussels, 11 Feb 2003
Enhanced security is a key element for the success of information and communication technologies (ICT), said Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society Erkki Liikanen as he launched a proposal to establish a European network and information security agency on 10 February.
The European network and information security agency's main objective would be to coordinate computer emergency response teams across Europe. They will then respond to emergency network issues by distributing warnings and publicising security-related standards.
'The assistance it provides shall help ensure interoperability of information security functions in networks and information systems,' said Mr Liikanen.
According to the Commissioner, such an initiative is essential as citizens, businesses and public administrations are increasingly turning to electronic communications solutions: 'More than 90 per cent of companies in the European Union have an Internet connection and the majority of them operate a website. About 40 per cent of European households have their own Internet connections.'
Mr Liikanen warned that with this electronic revolution come certain risks. For instance, while broadband offers 24 hour access to online services at an improved connection speed, 'it also increases the vulnerability of systems and multiplies the probability of some sort of cyber-attack,' added Mr Liikanen.
While the Commissioner emphasised the need for every citizen to take sufficient measures against the risks involved in network and information systems, he noted that new legislation, coupled with an emerging policy on cyber crime and the introduction of a European network and information security agency would help complete the picture.
As Mr Liikanen pointed out, individual Member States have already taken measures to address network security risks, however, 'there is no [cross-border cooperation] mechanism to ensure effective responses to security threats.'
'We propose to establish a European network and information security agency to build on national efforts to enhance network and information security and to increase the ability of Member States and EU institutions to prevent and respond to major network and information security problems.'
As well as gathering data relevant to information security, the agency will serve as a centre of competence where both Member States and EU institutions can seek advice on matters relating to security. 'This expertise provided for by the agency will play a key role for the security of Europe's digital economy and the development of the information society in general,' said the Commissioner.
Not only will the agency have a leading role in promoting risk assessment and risk communication methods, it will also help to assess standardisation needs and to develop network and information security concepts.
Finally, to encourage cooperation and awareness among key stakeholders in the information security field, the agency will set up a number of initiatives. According to Mr Liikanen, industry's involvement in such initiatives is crucial as most of the networks are privately owned and managed.
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