How Brexit Impacts the Future of Europe’s Cybersecurity Posture

How Brexit Impacts the Future of Europe’s Cybersecurity Posture

This post first appeared om the Thales eSecurity Blog here.

The British parliament has been unable to agree the exit package from the European Union. With the possibility of a “no deal” departure looming, EU leaders have granted a six-month extension to Brexit day. But the uncertainty that still lingers with regards to Britain’s future, creates various opportunities which cyber criminals could try to exploit.

Given the situation, careful examination of Brexit’s direct and indirect implications must be made, if we are to better understand the potential ramifications of a “no deal” exit. Let’s begin by looking at relevant regulations.

A brief look at current and future legal frameworks

The EU recently adopted two key pieces of legislation designed to govern cybersecurity and privacy issues. The first piece of legislation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)1, regulates data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). The second regulation, the EU Network and Information Security Directive (NIS)2, provides legal measures to boost the overall level of cybersecurity in the EU.

For its part, the United Kingdom incorporated GDPR into its Data Protection Act 20183 and the NIS Directive into its NIS Regulations 20184, a political choice showing that the UK strategically desires to be aligned and, to a certain extent, compliant with the new EU regulations.

Governing the transfer of data

On February 6, the UK government published “Using personal data after Brexit”9. The guideline reveals that post-Brexit UK businesses will still be able to send personal data from the UK to the EU and that the UK will continue to allow the free flow of personal data from the UK to the EU (and the EEA area).

Data originating from the EU that comes into the UK will be a different story. It is illegal for an EU Member State business or organisation to export data to a non-EEA entity without specific legal safeguards in place. Since post-Brexit UK could, depending on the method of exit, be considered a “third country,” UK businesses will be subject to these safeguards.

Current & Post-Brexit Threat Landscape

In the UK, the number of data breaches reported to the Data Protection Commission11 rose by almost 70 percent last year, totaling 4,740 breaches during 2018. At the same time, UK organisations such as universities, businesses, online stores and social media (like Facebook) have been subject to breaches that affected millions of people.

Incident Handling

Today all European businesses, organisations and citizens can utilise a data breach reporting mechanism to notify only the Lead Supervisory Authority (LSA) in their country, to carry out investigations and to inform/coordinate with LSAs in other EU Member States in case of a cross-border cybersecurity incident.

In a post-Brexit future, UK-based businesses and organizations will need to legally notify not only the UK Lead Supervisory Authority, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), but also each relevant Member State’s LSA.

Effects on the Workforce

What concerns me most is the cybersecurity skills shortage14. By limiting the right of free movement and enforcing stricter working visa requirements, Brexit could have a significant impact on the capability of Britain to fight against cyber criminals and nation state threats.

Additionally, UK based universities will potentially lose access to huge amounts of EU research funding because of Brexit.

What we can do to prepare?

On the cybersecurity front, UK companies will have to deal with a disappearing network perimeter, a rapidly expanding attack surface, the widening cybersecurity skills gap and the growing sophistication of cyber-attacks.

These issues are extremely difficult to be dealt with. In response, companies should focus on securing all of sensitive data by encrypting all data at rest and in transit, securely storing and managing all encryption keys and controlling user access and authentication. Doing so will help them staff safe in an increasingly uncertain world. With the rise in threats and the increasing value of data to cyber criminals, it’s important for businesses to know how they can adopt a Secure the Breach approach to protecting their most sensitive data and intellectual property.

Verdict UK – Lack of board-level cybersecurity awareness “alarming”

verdict-logoA UK government report highlighting a significant lack of board-level cybersecurity awareness among FTSE 350 members has been dubbed “alarming” by a senior cybersecurity professional.

The report, published today, found that only 16% of boards have a full understanding of the impact and disruption associated with cyberattacks, despite 96% having an established cybersecurity strategy.

“It’s alarming to see that the boards of the UK’s biggest businesses don’t understand the impact of cyberattacks, especially given that the impact of a serious attack is absolutely proven to impact revenue, reputation and even individual jobs,” said Jason Hart, CTO of Data Protection at Gemalto and former ethical hacker, in response to the news.

“Of course these organisations will have a cybersecurity strategy in place, but if the business doesn’t understand it – let alone test it – it may as well not be there,” added Hart

To read the full article click here.

Financial Times (UK) – AI is not a ‘silver bullet’ against cyber attacks

ftArtificial intelligence is emerging as a useful cyber security tool, but experts are warning companies not to view the technology as a “silver bullet”. Many elements of cyber defence — particularly monitoring large amounts of data — can be better handled by machines than humans.

At the moment AI is fantastic at notifying users they have been compromised after the event, says Jason Hart, chief technology officer of data protection at Gemalto, a digital security company. “What we want it to do is identify when something suspicious happens, apply the appropriate security controls to mitigate the risk, then report back that it has noticed a potential attack, stopped it and protected the data.”

To read the full article click here.


Silicon Republic – Wanted: IT security superheroes to fight cybercrime

siliconrepublicFrom WannaCry to Petya, it’s no wonder the cybersecurity sector is crying out for talent to fight ransomware. Hays’ Carolyn Dickason explores the increasing need for talent in infosec.

“The Breach Level Index highlights four major cyber-criminal trends over the past year. Hackers are casting a wider net and are using easily attainable account and identity information as a starting point for high-value targets,” said Jason Hart, Gemalto’s chief technology officer for data protection, in the report.

“Clearly, fraudsters are also shifting from attacks targeted at financial organisations to infiltrating large databases, such as entertainment and social media sites. Lastly, fraudsters have been using encryption to make breached data unreadable, then hold it for ransom and decrypting once they are paid.”

To read the full article click here.

10 years of cyber security; what the past decade has taught us

Cyber security

The difference ten years can make can be profound. 1966 looked nothing like 1976, and in each decade since, almost everything has changed. The Internet and globalization has meant that cultural shifts are less stark these days, but in terms of cyber security, 2006 feels like a long time ago.

This was a one year before the iPhone was launched, where 3G was just rolling out, and there was no such thing as apps. Streaming music, photo sharing, social networks were all in their infancy. In 2006, cyber security threats were very different to those today, as what was accessible to attackers was pretty limited.

Now, every aspect of our lives is stored in the cloud – from our banking and health records to our more personal identities – and we are generating significantly more data than ever before.

Evolution of threats

The type of threat has evolved to keep pace with this explosion in valuable data. Back in the early 2000s, most threats and malware were a nuisance, designed to simply disrupt or frustrate users.

Then in 2008, the Zeus Trojan was unleashed, that grabbed banking details via key-logging and form grabbing. Years later, 100 people were arrested for having stolen over $70 million thanks to the software.

This was the start of a much more professional approach to cyber-crime. Viruses, Trojans and worms started to be created to steal money or sensitive corporate information. Variants of the Zeus Trojan still plague computers to this day, and played a part in one of the biggest consumer hacks to date, that of Target in 2013.

It is key to remember, that as soon as something connects to the Internet, it becomes vulnerable. As we add connectivity to new things, everyone involved should be aware of the risks. Take connected cars for example. In car Wi-Fi and streaming video entertainment systems are becoming big selling points, but as demonstrated last year, weak security can let intruders in.

Shifting consumer perception

With such high profile breaches regularly hitting the news over the news, it has been interesting to witness how consumer attitudes have changed. Since 2013, there have been almost four billion records lost, and people are no longer shocked. At this scale, everyone from companies, to employees and everyday consumers now accepts that it’s a case of ‘when, not if’ they’ll be hacked.

Yet all is not doom and gloom. We surveyed millennials’ opinions to data security recently, in our Connected Living 2025 report. Two thirds said they would feel vigilant in the face of threats, well ahead of complacent and paranoid. This suggests people now understand the importance of protecting their data.

Breach prevention is dead (and so is the perimeter)

If the past ten years have taught anything, it is that perimeter defenses will be breached. No matter how tall or big the wall is, the enemy will find a way around it or under it.

Despite the increasing number of data breaches, companies continue to rely on firewalls, threat monitoring and other breach prevention tools as the foundation of their security strategies. Yet most IT professionals readily admit that their corporate and customer data would not be safe if theirperimeter security defenses were compromised.

This is not to say that perimeter security is not important. It just means that it should not be the only thing companies do to keep the bad guys out. Instead, IT professional should accept the fact that breaches are inevitable and work to secure the breach by placing security measures closer to the data and the users with encryption and multi-factor authentication.

Encryption and Multi-Factor Authentication Are King

Two additional developments have also made the dents in the capabilities of cyber criminals. Multi-factor authentication has shown its power in keeping records safe, and encryption is also becoming the norm so if data is lost or stolen, it’s useless.

Cyber security threats will continue to pose a significant problem. But as those born after the Internet hit the mainstream in 1995 approach adulthood, we’re well placed to face these threats head on. It’s a far cry from 2006, when 26.5 million U.S. military records were stolen, and the agency responsible waited three weeks to say anything to those affected.