2016 saw a sharp rise in aggressive cyberattacks against EU

9 Jan 2017

European Parliament offices in Brussels. Image: Alexandra Lande/Shutterstock

In 2016, the number of direct attacks against EU servers saw a sharp increase in 2016, with a total of 110 separate attempts to gain access to its data.

With cyberattacks having occurred to such an extent in 2016 that they could have influenced the results of the US election, the EU is now coming to terms with the aftermath of a year under siege.

According to the Financial Times, the European Commission (EC) was on the receiving end of 110 separate cyberattacks in 2016, marking a 20pc jump on the previous year.

This included a large-scale attack directed at it last November, which was successfully thwarted.

Of this number of attacks, officials have said that 80pc could be described as being harmful, warning that many could have completely compromised the organisation’s valuable data.

With sensitive information from the 28 member states stored within its data centres, the EU has been increasing its security measures from outside intrusion, in particular against any potential threats posed by Russia.

Within this framework, senior civil servants within the EC have been advised to require the use of encrypted email services, and engage in greater cooperation with NATO to bolster its cybersecurity assets.

Persistent, aggressive, and potentially destructive

Speaking to the Financial Times, the EU security commissioner, Julian King, said: “It’s clear that many institutions across Europe – and more widely, and that includes the EC – are subject to a continuously increasing number of cyberattacks from different sources.

“These threats are persistent, they are aggressive and more and more dangerous, and potentially destructive.”

As one of the most powerful heads of state on the continent, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel has warned of the potential for Russia to use cyberattacks to influence the upcoming elections in her own country, and in France, too.

Following reports issued by US intelligence agencies that said Russia was behind the major hack of the Democratic National Committee last year, officials from the country have briefed NATO ambassadors in Brussels to share information on Russia’s activities.

European Parliament offices in Brussels. Image: Alexandra Lande/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic