The European Parliament has deployed stringent cybersecurity tests in anticipation of the European elections to be held in May.
The exercise, conducted by the Parliament, the European Commission, Member States and the EU Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA), forms part of a wider initiative on the part of the EU to guarantee its citizens free and fair elections in 2019. Participants were able to test the promptness and efficacy of their crisis response protocols in the event of cyberattacks; as well as exploring new ways to detect, prevent and address online attacks which may threaten the integrity of the elections.
Andrus Ansip, Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Single Market, said: “We must protect our free and fair elections. This is the cornerstone of our democracy. To secure our democratic processes from manipulation or malicious cyber activities by private interests or third countries, the European Commission proposed in September 2018 a set of actions. Together with the EU Member States, and other EU Institutions we are implementing these actions. We also decided to test our cybersecurity vigilance and readiness towards secure, fair and free EU elections 2019 by organising the first in its kind EU exercise on elections. I believe that this is an important step forward for more resilient EU elections in a connected society.”
Participants in the cybersecurity testing exercise were able to:
- Boost international cooperation on issues pertaining to cybersecurity protocols and breaches;
- Assess the ability of Member States to appropriately analyse risks to cybersecurity, communicate effectively to the public where necessary; and promote “situational awareness” of prevailing issues;
- Perform tests of existing plans and procedures for crisis management and protocols to combat disinformation campaigns; and
- Gain a functional overview of the major cybersecurity issues threatening the elections, Member States’ levels of resilience; and additional actions which could be taken to further mitigate risk.
Vice-President of the European Parliament Rainer Wieland said: “Cyber-attacks are a recent but very real threat to the stability of the European Union and its Member States. A cyber-attack on elections could dramatically undermine the legitimacy of our institutions. The legitimacy of elections is based on the understanding that we can trust in their results. This very trust has come under pressure from cyberattacks and other new types of election fraud in the digital age; and we must respond. With the upcoming European elections in 2019, we have to take responsibility and build up the necessary means to strengthen our electoral cyber security. This responsibility is a common one, shared by European and Member State institutions. Together we need to safeguard the integrity of the elections.”