Don’t let the bugs bite

“Stay safe online this summer when you are travelling and do not drop your guard about the need to stay secure online when you are away from your familiar home environment.” This is the holiday travel advice from Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip writing in his monthly blog.

Since the European Commission launched its Digital Single Market strategy in May 2015, this year is the first that EU travellers have actually benefited from the abolition of mobile roaming charges and have started to enjoy lower mobile internet charges.

The European Commission estimates that the Digital Single Market will contribute €415 billion to the EU’s economy and boost employment opportunities, but it also opens up opportunities for criminal hackers to exploit any weaknesses in the system.

Cyber criminals have already been active this year; the WannaCry Ransomeware attack which started on 12 May and targeted computers using the Windows operating system caused extensive damage to companies and to consumers in Europe. The following month on 27 June the world was hit by the computer virus Petya, which was launched in Ukraine and Russia where it proved to be particularly destructive infecting national institutions, and which subsequently spread globally.

Countries initially affected in WannaCry ransomware attack

The EU’s Digital Single Market plans to coordinate the use of high quality 700 MHz technology to enable 5G networks in at least one major city in every EU Member State by 2020. Some of the early movers are Tallinn, Stockholm and Helsinki. 5G Networks will pave the way for new services such as smart cities, connected cars and remote healthcare.

But hand in hand with market development comes the need to keep network and information systems safe in Europe.

“I expect the new EU strategy for digital cyber security to be launched in September,” said Commission Vice-President Ansip, speaking at a press conference in the Brussels Press Club last week.

“In the EU there will be 6 billion connected devices by 2020. No single member state can deal with security issues alone. There must be cooperation and only by working together will we be able to find solutions,” he went on to say.

Brussels Express is an exclusively online news service, and we fully support Commissioner Ansip’s initiative to make the marketplace safer for all of our users. As with any criminality, hackers tend to go for the softest targets where they detect a weakness that can be exploited. So, one thing that we can all do in order to protect our phones and computers is to practice some basic cyber hygiene and repair the weaknesses in our systems.

Simple safety measures include keeping software up to date, installing regular updates, changing and strengthening passwords, varying the passwords for different applications, and applying caution to the use of any public wifi networks for accessing bank account data.

Every October the European Commission organises a cyber security month to raise general awareness by focussing on the issues. The European agency for Network and Information Security  (ENISA) also produces some handy information guides with tips for online security.

These are simple precautions that can be taken now and they may prove to be a valuable investment in time so that you enjoy safe and secure surfing this summer without any cyber hassle.