Kroes pushes for 'more muscular' EU digital security

EU information security agency Enisa will get a boost and legal measures will be introduced to make it easier to use e-identity across the region, under proposals from digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes

The EU information security agency is set to become "more muscular", as the European Commission looks to strengthen internet security, digital identity and online child protection in a more connected world.

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Digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes has outlined proposals to boost Enisa, the EU's information security agency.

Digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes outlined proposals on Tuesday to boost the capabilities of the European Networking and Information Security Agency (Enisa), and create a pan-European system for electronic authentication as part of a push to build citizens' use of online services.

"We need to support the EU institutions, member states and society at large in getting better internet security," Kroes said in a speech to the European Parliament's committee on industry, research and energy (ITRE).

A key part of this is to build "a more muscular Enisa", she said, which involves making sure the EU's information security policy adviser has the resources it needs. "First, Enisa must be able to attract and to retain the very best IT security experts in Europe. Second, Enisa staff and stakeholders must have the best conditions for networking," Kroes said.

For example, Enisa started operating a mobile assistance team from Athens in October offering local cybersecurity support to member states, she noted, and this work should carry on. Kroes did not divulge how much funding the Enisa plans would need.

Cybersecurity initiatives

In addition to strengthening the agency, the push to improve internet security across the region calls for broader cybersecurity initiatives, Kroes said. For instance, she called for the EU to work with the "third countries" that cybercriminals use to obfuscate their attacks "to make sure there are no safe havens for those who attack the internet".

Kroes also outlined plans to introduce legal measures to make it easier for citizens to use a single electronic identity (e-ID) to access online services across the whole of the EU, with the aim of harmonising secure electronic transactions. She also proposed revising the eSignature directive, though she did not say how.

The steps are a move toward a pan-European framework for electronic identification, authentication and signature (Pefias). Pefias plugs into Kroes's desire for Europe to have a joined-up e-government strategy, which simplifies the sharing of data between different countries' agencies and makes it easier for individuals to get access to services across the region.

"Only [Pefias] would bring the necessary coherence to secure electronic transactions and boost user confidence," Kroes said.

As part of the internet security push, the European Commission is preparing to present an internet strategy to assure the safety of children online, she added. Chief executives from across the IT industry have been called upon to "step up their efforts" in reporting abuse, and in assuring privacy and parental controls.

Beyond security, Kroes wants to open up EU government data, and said she will propose amendments to the directive on re-use of public-sector information to make the data easier to access. In 2012, the Commission will launch an Open Data portal under this effort, which is expected to generate benefits beyond the immediate sales of products based on the data.

"The value of the market for re-use of public data is currently estimated at some €30bn (£25.8bn), but the overall indirect gains may be as high as €140bn," she said.

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