Biggest cyber-threat ‘from software failure, not crime’

The biggest-ever cyber-attack exercise ever held in Europe involved more than 2,000 simulated attacks — but the biggest threat does not come from these kinds of incidents, the experts admitted.

Cyber-crime and espionage cost companies and governments up to a $1tn (€793bn) last year and the top eight attacks yielded access to the details of more than 500m people.

Teams from all over the EU co-operated online with a central control centre in testing how they would deal with any number of deliberate attacks and co-operate to help one another.

However, the real culprit that might bring down the internet could be much less glamorous.

Steve Purser, head of operations at the European Network and Information Security Agency, said the reality was that “the biggest threats we really see are not attacks, but hardware and software failures”.

He also has a unique view on the frequent demand for organisations such as his own to share data. “Actually we need to share less data,” he said. “We are living in an age of data pollution, and we need to discuss the right things at the right level.”

That is the aim of this day-long exercise, with more than 200 organisations and 400 cyber-security professionals from 29 European countries testing their readiness to counter cyber-attacks.

They included experts from the public and private sectors, including cyber-security agencies, national computer emergency response teams, ministries, telecoms companies, energy companies, financial institutions, and internet service providers.

It was the biggest and most complex exercise organised in Europe and a big development from five years ago when, according to the head of ENISA, Udo Helmbrecht, there were no procedures to enable EU countries to co-operate during a cyber-crisis.

The exercises are ongoing throughout the year as are the real attacks which increased by almost a quarter last year, and the number of data breaches also increased.

However, there was one piece of data that ENISA was protecting from hackers and others — details on which two EU countries did not take part.

“You will have to ask them yourself to find out,” the agency said.


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