EC: Free Software to enhance cybersecurity

On 5 July, the European Commission signed a contractual arrangement on a public-private partnership (PPP) for cybersecurity industrial research and innovation between the European Union, and a newly-established European Cyber Security Organisation (ECSO). The latter is supposed to represent a wide variety of stakeholders such as large companies, start-ups, research centres, universities, clusters and association as well as European Member State’s local, regional and national administrations. The partnership is supposed to trigger €1.8 billion of investment by 2020 under Horizon2020 initiative, in which the EU allocates he total budget up to EUR 450 million.

In the accompanying communication, the Commission identifies the importance of collaborative efforts in the area of cybersecurity, the transparency and information sharing. In regard to information sharing, the Commission acknowledged the difficulties amongst the businesses to share information about cyberthreats with their peers or authorities in the fear of possible liability for the breach of confidentiality. In this regard the Commission intends to set up anonymous information exchange in order to facilitate such intelligence exchange.

In addition, the Commission stressed “the lack of interoperable solutions (technical standards), practices (process standards) and EU-wide mechanisms of certification” that are affecting the single market in cybersecurity. There is no doubt that such concerns can be significantly decreased by using Free Software as much as possible. The security advantages of Free Software have also amongst the others been previously recognised by the European Parliament in its own-initiative report on Digital Single Market. Therefore, within the anticipated establishment of the PPP for cybersecurity (cPPP), the Commission highlights that:

In this context, the development of open source software and open standards can help foster trust, transparency and disruptive innovation, and should therefore also be a part of the investment made in this cPPP.

The newly established ECSO, whose role is to support the cPPP, is currently calling out for members in different groups. It is currently unclear how the membership will be divided between these groups, however the stakeholders’ platform is intended to be mostly industry-led.

We hope that the Commission will in practice uphold its plans to include Free Software communities into standardisation processes as has been indicated in several documents throughout the whole Digital Single Market initiative, including but not limited to the area of cybersecurity.

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