New Cyber Defense rules and policies ignore the reality: End users are lazy

In the past few weeks both the EU Commission and White House have come out with commentary and rules in response to the rise of cyber-attacks. There is growing awareness that cyber security is becoming a political and business necessity. While encryption technology has been used for decades to deal with the storage and transit of sensitive information most are complex solutions designed by I.T. and security experts to meet specific industry regulations or threats. In general they do the job they were designed for, however they overlook one massive reality.

In order to be effective security solutions need to be adopted and used by people who don’t care about security. Most data leaks and privacy breaches are inadvertent; the wrong email address, the wrong attachment. It is more convenient to use basic email, cross your fingers and hit send then log into some other product to send sensitive information. To ensure adoption any security solution being deployed must complement the tools end users already use, not complicate them.

For I.T. and Security teams it is crucial that any deployed security solution work seamlessly across an increasingly complex reality of hosted and on-premise email platforms, corporate and personal mobility devices and avoid traditional encryption solutions that require certificates, keys to manage and changes to everyday email. Governments and regulators can create new rules and policies to defend against cyber threats but until solutions are designed for distracted end users who don’t want to learn anything new information is at risk.

EU Cybersecurity plan to protect open internet and online freedom and opportunity

Brussels, 7 February 2013 – EU Cybersecurity plan to protect open internet and online freedom and opportunity.

The European Commission, together with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has published a cybersecurity strategy alongside a Commission proposed directive on network and information security (NIS).

The cybersecurity strategy – “An Open, Safe and Secure Cyberspace” – represents the EU’s comprehensive vision on how best to prevent and respond to cyber disruptions and attacks. This is to further European values of freedom and democracy and ensure the digital economy can safely grow. Specific actions are aimed at enhancing cyber resilience of information systems, reducing cybercrime and strengthening EU international cyber-security policy and cyber defence.

The strategy articulates the EU’s vision of cyber-security in terms of five priorities:

The EU international cyberspace policy promotes the respect of EU core values, defines norms for responsible behaviour, advocates the application of existing international laws in cyberspace, while assisting countries outside the EU with cyber-security capacity-building, and promoting international cooperation in cyber issues.

The EU has made key advances in better protecting citizens from online crimes, including establishing a European Cybercrime Centre (IP/13/13), proposing legislation on attacks against information systems (IP/10/1239) and the launch of a Global Alliance to fight child sexual abuse online (IP/12/1308). The Strategy also aims at developing and funding a network of national Cybercrime Centers of Excellence to facilitate training and capacity building.

The proposed NIS Directive is a key component of the overall strategy and would require all Member States, key internet enablers and critical infrastructure operators such as e-commerce platforms and social networks and operators in energy, transport, banking and healthcare services to ensure a secure and trustworthy digital environment throughout the EU. The proposed Directive lays down measures including:

(a) Member State must adopt a NIS strategy and designate a national NIS competent authority with adequate financial and human resources to prevent, handle and respond to NIS risks and incidents;

(b) Creating a cooperation mechanism among Member States and the Commission to share early warnings on risks and incidents through a secure infrastructure, cooperate and organise regular peer reviews;

(c) Operators of critical infrastructures in some sectors (financial services, transport, energy, health), enablers of information society services (notably: app stores e-commerce platforms, Internet payment, cloud computing, search engines, social networks) and public administrations must adopt risk management practices and report major security incidents on their core services.

Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda said:

“The more people rely on the internet the more people rely on it to be secure. A secure internet protects our freedoms and rights and our ability to do business. It’s time to take coordinated action – the cost of not acting is much higher than the cost of acting.”

Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission said:

“For cyberspace to remain open and free, the same norms, principles and values that the EU upholds offline, should also apply online. Fundamental rights, democracy and the rule of law need to be protected in cyberspace. The EU works with its international partners as well as civil society and the private sector to promote these rights globally.”

Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs said:

“The Strategy highlights our concrete actions to drastically reduce cybercrime. Many EU countries are lacking the necessary tools to track down and fight online organised crime. All Member States should set up effective national cybercrime units that can benefit from the expertise and the support of the European Cybercrime Centre EC3.”


Cyber-security incidents are increasing in frequency and magnitude, becoming more complex and know no borders. These incidents can cause major damage to safety and the economy. Efforts to prevent, cooperate and be more transparent about cyber incidents must improve.

Previous efforts by the European Commission and individual Member States have been too fragmented to deal with this growing challenge.

Facts about cybersecurity today