What does the EU cybersecurity vote mean for the average person?

12 Jul 2018

European flags in Brussels. Image: Alexandra Lande/Shutterstock

The European Parliament’s industry committee wants to give ENISA more power and create a rulebook for connected devices.

European lawmakers have overwhelmingly voted in favour of giving more power and a higher budget to the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA).

The agency is one of the smallest in the EU and is currently based in Athens and Crete. As opposed to direct operational support, ENISA provides expertise.

EU cybersecurity boost

The new rules will supply ENISA with a larger budget, more staff (a possible Brussels team is being touted) and a permanent mandate.

The body will also become the sole reference point for a new cybersecurity certification scheme in order to avoid certification scheme fragmentation within the EU. It will draft candidate certification schemes under the European Commission’s request and maintain a dedicated website containing information on all certification schemes, whether they are withdrawn, expired or accepted.

The aforementioned cybersecurity certification scheme will certify that an IT product, service or process has no known vulnerabilities at the time of the certification’s release and will also ensure it complies with international standards and technical specifications. This will give the average EU consumer more peace of mind when they are purchasing a connected device such as a fitness bracelet, a piece of antivirus software or any other IT product.

Potential buyers will be swayed by seal of approval

While the certification scheme is not mandatory, those that volunteer to abide by it with will prove their offerings are safe and data can only be accessed by authorised individuals or systems. It will also assure potential buyers that the products, processes or services are designed with security baked in and fitted with up-to-date software free from vulnerabilities. Certification will prove that risks to life and health from using certified devices or products have been minimised as much as possible.

Long-term outlook for EU cybersecurity

German rapporteur Angelika Niebler said: “Today’s vote is a very important step towards a long-term vision of cybersecurity in the EU for two reasons. Firstly, from the perspective of consumers, it is important that users have trust and confidence in IT solutions. Secondly, I strongly believe that Europe can become a leading player in cybersecurity. We have a strong industrial base and it is vital to continue working on improving cybersecurity for consumer goods, industrial applications and critical infrastructure.”

The draft report was approved by 56 votes to five with a single abstention and will constitute the European Parliament’s negotiation position with the Council, if it is approved by the entire house during the plenary session coming up in September.

EMEA director at Trustwave SpiderLabs, Ed Williams, told Siliconrepublic.com: “I have some reservations around the certification framework – depending on the type of product, certification may be voluntary or mandatory. Personally, I would like to see mandatory security for ‘all’ products.

“It also appears that assurance will be broken down into different categories: basic, substantial and high; where basic ‘provides a limited degree of confidence in the claimed or asserted cybersecurity qualities of an ICT product or service’. I’d prefer all my ICT products to have high levels of assurance, I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

“It will be interesting to see how consumers take to this. My hope is that the certification framework is agile, simple and clear and that having high assurance doesn’t come with additional costs (whatever they may be).”

European flags in Brussels. Image: Alexandra Lande/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects