EU task force to study IT critical infrastructure

The European Union has set up a task force to explore what its 25 member states are doing in the area of combating cyber threats against the region’s critical infrastructure.

As part of the EU’s Critical Information Infrastructure Research Coordination (CI2RCO) project, announced Friday, the task force aims to identify research groups and programs focused on IT security in critical infrastructures, such as telecommunications networks and power grids.

“We want to bring together experts across the European Union, learn more about their programs and how we can cooperate in curbing what we view as a global problem,” said Paul Friessem, a director at the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology (SIT), which is one of the organizations in the EU task force. “We also intend to collaborate with experts outside the EU, in particular in the U.S., Canada, Australia and even possibly Russia.”

One of the problems facing the task force is convincing parties to divulge information that some governments view as critical to their national security. “While most EU member-states are aware of the threat of cyber attacks on their critical infrastructure and are thus willing to share information, some are less willing,” Friessem said. “We hope to overcome these barriers.”

In addition to identifying research efforts within the enlarged EU, the task force will ask the critical infrastructure players — telecom operators, power companies and other utilities — about their requirements. “We want to bring together these players to see where we have overlapping efforts and gaps,” Friessem said.

The plan is to submit an overview of the situation to the European Commission over the next few months so that officials in Brussels can address, if necessary, the issue of critical infrastructure security research in the forthcoming Seventh Framework Program, according to Friessem. The 7th Framework Program is the next five-year research and development program funded by the EU.

The CI2RCO project will run for two years. In addition to SIT, the task force includes the German Aerospace Center (DLR);Industrieanlagen-Betriebsgesellschaft mbH (IABG); the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and the Environment (ENEA); Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO);

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