New unit for coordinated response to cybersecurity in Europe

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A Joint Cyber Unit is to be established as a platform to provide a coordinated response to large-scale cyber threats and incidents in the EU.

The proposed Joint Cyber Unit is intended to bring together the resources and expertise available to the EU and its member states to effectively prevent and respond to mass cyber incidents and crises and offer assistance in recovery from attacks.

Currently cybersecurity communities, including civilian, law enforcement, diplomatic and cyber defence communities, as well as private sector partners, often operate separately. However, while the sectors are specific, the threats are often common with consequent benefits from coordination, knowledge sharing and advance warning across communities.

The Joint Cyber Unit is thus an important step forward for cybersecurity with virtual and physical platforms planned for this coordination and collaboration across the region’s communities.

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The Unit will work on two levels, technical and operational, with roles including delivering the EU Cybersecurity Incident and Crisis Response Plan and establishing and mobilising EU cybersecurity rapid reaction teams. Others are to facilitate the adoption of protocols for mutual assistance among participants and establish national and cross-border monitoring and detection capabilities.

The Commission plans the new Unit to be built in a phased approach by the relevant EU institutions and entities in co-ownership with member states. The operational phase is targeted for June 2022 with the Unit fully established one year later by June 2023.

Proposed participants include the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA), EU and national computer emergency response teams and the EU Cyber Crisis Liaison Organisation Network (CyCLONe) among other cybercommunity actors, as well as representatives from the law enforcement, diplomacy and defence communities.

ENISA will serve as the secretariat for the preparatory phase and the Unit will operate close to its new Brussels office and the office of the Computer Emergency Response Team for the EU institutions, bodies and agencies (CERT-EU).

The investments necessary for setting up the Joint Cyber Unit will be provided by the Commission, primarily through the Digital Europe digital technology funding programme. Funds will serve to build the physical and virtual platform, establish and maintain secure communication channels, as well as improve detection capabilities.

In a statement ENISA has welcomed the formation of the Joint Cyber Unit, pointing to its mandate to cooperate at the operational level and establish synergies with EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies.

“The Joint Cyber Unit will build stronger relationships within the cybersecurity ecosystem and shape an effective framework for crisis management,” says Juhan Lepassaar, Executive Director of ENISA.

“Our future local office in Brussels will operate closely with the Unit to coordinate response, create situational awareness and ensure preparedness in times of crisis.”