In today’s digitalised world, cybersecurity incidents – intentional or accidental – can have a huge negative impact on our ultra-connected societies. Whatever their origin – criminal, terrorist or state-sponsored attacks as well as natural disasters and unintentional mistakes – they can disrupt the complex finance, health, energy and transport systems which keep our world turning, and encroach our education, cultural, sporting, social and family lives which rely more and more on digital technologies.
Some incidents hit the headlines as was the case in April 2015 when the French broadcaster TV5 Monde was the victim of an unacceptable attack against the freedom of press and expression. Or in early December 2015 when it became public that hackers had obtained the names, passwords, homes addresses and birthdays of 5 million adults and 200,000 children from VTech, a Chinese toy manufacturer whose toy tablets, phones, and baby monitors may be in your homes or were waiting under the Christmas tree. Threat is always present, and cybersecurity needs constant attention. Cybercrime is global by its very nature, and therefore I strongly encourage European Union Member States to cooperate on cybersecurity issues.
People will not use what they do not trust. Greater confidence and security are absolutely fundamental for a more widespread use of digital technologies, including e-payments, cloud computing and machine-to-machine communications which are at the heart of our digital economy and society. However, currently only 22% of Europeans have full trust in search engines, social networking sites and e-mail services and only 38% of Europeans feel confident about online purchases from another EU country.
That is why cybersecurity is one of my top political priorities. We laid the foundations in 2013 with the adoption of the EU Cybersecurity Strategy, and the Commission has since stepped up its efforts to better protect Europeans online. We outlined our plans in the Digital Single Market strategy that I presented in May 2015 with my colleague Andrus Ansip, Vice-president of the Commission in charge of the Digital Single Market. The fight against cybercrime is also at the core of the European Agenda on Security presented in April last year.