Joint cyber unit to tackle large-scale security threats

It will act as a platform to ensure an EU coordinated response to cyber incidents and crises

The Commission launched today a vision to build a new Joint Cyber Unit (JCU) aimed at tackling the rising number of serious cyber incidents impacting public services, businesses and citizens across the EU. First announced by EC President Ursula von der Leyen in her political guidelines, the unit will bring together resources and expertise to effectively prevent, deter and respond to mass cyber incidents and crises, the EU press service reported.

Advanced and coordinated responses in the field of cybersecurity have become increasingly necessary, as cyberattacks grow in number, scale and consequences, impacting heavily our security. All relevant actors in the EU need to be prepared to respond collectively and exchange relevant information on a ‘need to share', rather than only ‘need to know', basis, the EC stated.

Cybersecurity communities, including civilian, law enforcement, diplomatic and cyber defence communities, as well as private sector partners, too often operate separately. With the Joint Cyber Unit, they will have a virtual and physical platform of cooperation: relevant EU institutions, bodies and agencies together with the Member States will build progressively a European platform for solidarity and assistance to counter large-scale cyberattacks.

The JCU creation is an important step towards completing the European cybersecurity crisis management framework. It is a concrete deliverable of the EU Cybersecurity Strategy and the EU Security Union Strategy, contributing to a safe digital economy and society.

The unit will act as a platform to ensure an EU coordinated response to large-scale cyber incidents and crises, as well as to offer assistance in recovering from these attacks. The EU and its Member States have many entities involved in different fields and sectors. While the sectors may be specific, the threats are often common – hence, the need for coordination, sharing of knowledge and even advance warning.

The participants will be asked to provide operational resources for mutual assistance within the unit. The Joint Cyber Unit will allow them to share best practice, as well as information in real time on threats that could emerge in their respective areas. It will also work at an operational and at a technical level to deliver the EU Cybersecurity Incident and Crisis Response Plan, based on national plans; establish and mobilise EU Cybersecurity Rapid Reaction Teams; facilitate the adoption of protocols for mutual assistance among participants; establish national and cross-border monitoring and detection capabilities, including Security Operation Centres (SOCs); and more.

The Commission is proposing to build the JCU through a gradual and transparent process in four steps, in co-ownership with the Member States and the different entities active in the field. The aim is to ensure that the unit will move to the operational phase by 30 June 2022 and that it will be fully established one year later, by 30 June 2023. The European Union Agency for Cybersecurity, ENISA, will serve as secretariat for the preparatory phase and the unit will operate close to their Brussels offices and the office of CERT-EU, the Computer Emergency Response Team for the EU institutions, bodies and agencies.

The investments necessary for setting up the Joint Cyber Unit, will be provided by the Commission, primarily through the Digital Europe Programme. Funds will serve to build the physical and virtual platform, establish and maintain secure communication channels, as well as improve detection capabilities. Additional contributions, especially to develop Member States' cyber-defence capabilities, may come from the European Defence Fund.

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