From stolen data to blocked hospital systems: cyberattacks can have perilous consequences. Learn more about cybersecurity and its importance.
The digital transformation of the economy and society has accelerated in recent years, creating opportunities as well as challenges. By 2030, 125 billion devices could be connected to the internet, up from 27 billion in 2017 while 90% of people over six are expected to be online. As cyberspace is by design interconnected and digital and physical are increasingly intertwined, new dangers emerge.
- Cyberattacks are attempts to misuse information, by stealing, destroying or exposing it and they aim to disrupt or destroy computer systems and networks
- Cybersecurity includes information and communication security, operational technology and the IT platforms required to ensure the safety of digital systems
- Cyberdefence includes cybersecurity and threat analyses and strategies to protect against threats directed at citizens, institutions and governments
Cyber threats in the EU: personal and societal costs
The use of digital solutions has long been on the rise and teleworking, online shopping and keeping in touch online rose sharply during lockdown. These solutions can benefit consumers and support the economy and the post-Covid recovery. However, there has been a corresponding increase in malicious cyber activities.
Attackers may use phishing websites and emails with malicious links and attachments to steal banking information or blackmail organisations after blocking their IT systems and data.
A secure cyberspace is the basis for the EU's digital single market: enabling solutions and unlocking its full potential by making people confident online. The 2019 Digital Economy and Society Index showed that security concerns limited or prevented 50% of EU internet users from performing online activities. The 2020 index indicated that 39% of EU citizens who used the internet experienced security-related problems.
The damage caused by cyberattacks goes beyond the economy and finance, affecting the very democratic foundations of the EU and threatening the basic functioning of society.
Essential services and critical sectors such as transport, energy, health and finance, have become increasingly dependent on digital technologies. This, together with the increase in physical objects connected to the Internet of things, can have direct consequences, including making cybersecurity a matter of life and death.
From cyberattacks on hospitals, causing them to postpone urgent medical procedures, to attacks on power grids and water supply - attackers are threatening the supply of essential services. And as cars and homes become increasingly connected, they could be threatened or exploited in unforeseen ways.
Cyberattacks, deployed with for example disinformation, economic pressure and conventional armed attacks, are testing the resilience of democratic states and institutions, directly targeting peace and security in the EU.
Cybersecurity in the EU
Businesses and organisations in the EU spend significantly less on cybersecurity than their US counterparts. The European Union has been working to strengthen cybersecurity. In May 2022 Parliament and Council negotiators reached an agreement on the NIS2 Directive, which are comprehensive rules to strengthen EU-wide resilience.
"We need to act and make our businesses, governments and society more resilient to hostile cyber operations,” said Bart Groothuis (Renew, the Netherlands), the MEP responsible for steering the new rules through Parliament.