EU cyber security directive considered harmful

Yesterday the European Commission launched its new draft directive on cybersecurity, on a webpage which omits a negative Opinion of the Impact Assessment Board. This directive had already been widely leaked, and I wrote about it in an EDRi Enditorial. There are at least two serious problems with it.

The first is that it will oblige Member States to set up single “competent authorities” for technical expertise, international liasion, security breach reporting and CERT functions. In the UK, these functions are distributed across GCHQ, MI5/CPNI, the new NCA, the ICO and various private-sector bodies. And the UK is relatively centralised; in Germany, for example, there’s a constitutional separation between police and intelligence functions. Centralisation will not just damage the separation of powers essential in any democracy, but will also harm operational effectiveness. Most of our critical infrastructure is in the hands of foreign companies, from O2 through EDF to Google; moving cybersecurity cooperation from the current loose association of private-public partnerships to a centralised, classified system will make it harder for most of them to play.

Second, whereas security-breach notification laws in the USA require firms to report breaches to affected citizens, articles 14 and 15 instead require breach notification to the “competent authority”. Notification requirements can be changed later by order (14.5-7) and the “competent authorities” only have to tell us if they determine it’s in the “public interest” (14.4). So instead of empowering us, it will empower the spooks. But that’s not all. Member States must “ensure that the competent authorities have the power to require market operators and public administrations to: (a) provide information needed to assess the security of their networks and information systems, including documented security policies; and (b) undergo a security audit carried out by a qualified independent body or national authority and make the results thereof available to the competent authority” (15.2). States must also “ensure that competent authorities have the power to issue binding instructions to market operators and public administrations” (15.3) Now as Parliament has just criticised the Home Office’s attempt to take powers to order firms like Google and Facebook to disclose user data by means of the Communications Data Bill, I hope everyone will think long and hard about the implications of passing this Directive as it stands. It’s yet another unfortunate step towards the militarisation of cyberspace.

3 thoughts on “EU cyber security directive considered harmful

  1. Ross,

    I am sure you will agree there is an issue that cyber security is a challenge for society right now.

    If this directive gives you concerns, what is your counter proposal to address the challenges?


  2. These days I’m actually more concerned about the impact of “cyber”-security laws rather than online criminals. Largely because most of them neglect, ignore, and deliberately bypass the kinds of negative feedback loops that the term “cybernetics” actually refers to. In particular the separation of powers that this directive violates is, fundamentally, a cybernetic feedback system operating at the human rather than electronic level.

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