24 / March / 2020 : 17-02

COVID-19: EU cybersecurity 'at risk from hackers'

High level meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic take place at a safe distance -- and the European Union is no exception.

Recent EU talks chaired by Council President Charles Michel saw EU leaders discuss the coronavirus outbreak via video link.

"One of the problems for all multilateral organisations like the UN or the EU is that their security is often very challenged by the fact that you have so many different actors involved, some of whom may not always have the best motives, some of whom may not always do their work on security," explains James Lewis, cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.

"If there is non-public information, then definitely people (hackers) will go after that."

Official networks are supposed to be safe. But once you have even one participant joining a meeting from a home laptop, cyber defence suddenly has a weak spot.

Yet, in general, teleconferences are almost an invitation to hackers to test their skills, argues Lewis.

"We have discovered that a lot of these technologies we depend on really are not ready for prime time. At least the way people implement them, they are not ready for prime time. So I think this has been a good lesson for people: how you have to sit down and think about programming, think about security. It has been a good test, fortunately no real damage as a result so far," he says.

Whether authorities and companies learn security lessons from the COVID-19 crisis remains to be seen. Experts say only massive new investment can create cyber protection worth the name.

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