A conversation with Jarno Limnéll on cybersecurity and the Digital Summit

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Jarno Limnéll, professor of Cyber Security at Aalto University, has been the keynote speaker of the morning session of meetings between the EU leaders during last month’s Tallinn Digital Summit. We have managed to get some thoughts from him on the state-of-the-art of cybersecurity policies in Europe and on what we could do, together, to improve the cyber-readiness of our systems.

Here is the full transcript of our interview.

Could you give us an assessment of the policies regarding cyber security in Europe right now? What conclusions we can draw from that and what are the hot topics you have been talking about during the first session of the Tallinn Digital Summit?

I think one of the biggest challenges here is that different EU countries, their level of cyber-readiness differ inside the EU area and what I also emphasized in my keynote to the EU leaders is that we have to do better, together. On the other hand what I emphasized is that the speed of digitalization is very fast at the moment and is pretty hard to understand its future, so we should not over-regulate this development, because that kind of over-regulation could prevent the development of a digital Europe. And another issue that I want to emphasize here is that we need more cybersecurity experts in the European Union: we pretty often forget that the most valuable resources that we have in cybersecurity are talented individuals, and when I’m thinking about the secure and trusted European future and the single European economy. I think we need much more cybersecurity experts with different expertise areas nowadays.

Which are the main threats to the integrity of the European cyberspace at the current moment?

There was one thing that I especially raised in my keynote to EU leaders. I was worried about the deliberate cyber assaults at the heart of western democracies and that is the cyber-enabled influence on elections. As we very well know, elections are the heart of democracy: we have to be prepared to different kinds of cyber technical or cyber psychological influence. This is what we are experiencing already in the world, also here in Europe, because we really have to take care of our democracy when we are talking about the future of the EU.

Policies on cybersecurity differ from state to state. What is the reason why they differ from each other? Do you think that from the Digital summit there could be a spark for a more harmonic policy at a European level on the matter?

What I have sensed in Tallinn during the last two days, and this is my opinion, is an increase in solidarity within the EU concerning cybersecurity issues. And that is very important because we all know that cybersecurity requires a team effort. And I have the strong belief that if there is enough political will and commitment, we can have high levels of cybersecurity in all EU member states, but that requires cooperation and everyone’s responsibility. One of the keywords that I said in my keynote was “responsibility”: every European member state, every European business, every European citizen, must know their responsibilities on this matter.

Do you think that single states, at this point, cannot be able to face cyber threats alone?

We are much stronger when we prepare and also have the resilience against different cyber hostilities and cyber attacks if we are doing that together. This is a team effort, absolutely.




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