‘Europe should care more about its digital sovereignty’

| Michaela Nesvarova

The US Department of Homeland Security and NWO have launched collaborative cybersecurity research. It involves four U.S.-Dutch research teams – one of which is at the UT. ‘I’m happy about this collaboration, but I believe Europe should not completely trust the US. I’m concerned about the digital sovereignty of Europe,’ says UT professor Aiko Pras.

Aiko Pras

Cybersecurity collaboration 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate, together with its counterpart in the Netherlands (dcypher) have announced a total of $5 million in collaborative cybersecurity research and development. The selected research teams will work together to develop solutions for Distributed Denial of Defense Security (DDoSD) and Industrial Controls Systems Security.

The University of Twente is a part of this transatlantic collaboration, which officially started on the 1st of December. For the next four years, the UT’s Design and Analysis of Communication Systems (DACS) group will be working with the Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) of the University of California (San Diego) on a project focused on DDoS attacks.

Find DDoS attacks before they start

‘While others wait until an attack has started, our approach is different: we focus on proactive security,’ explains Professor of Internet Security Aiko Pras. ‘Our goal is to find indicators that a DDoS attack is being planned so we can prepare for it. We scan the entire internet and collect domain names, establishing a huge data set called OpenINTEL - for which we just received the Dutch Research Data Prize. For example, this allows us to see if somebody is preparing an attack by registering a lot of domain names similar to the original website. For instance, if somebody registers a lot of domains similar to “Rabobank.nl” – such as “rebobank” and so on.’

‘Europe should focus on European partners’

While Professor Pras says the US-Dutch project is exciting and can bring valuable results, he also warns against working with partners outside of Europe. ‘Europe should care more about its digital sovereignty. Our collaboration with the US is pragmatic – we do it because there is a strong network and it can lead to excellent research -, but I believe Europe should focus stronger on collaborating with European partners.’

‘There are big cultural and political differences between Europe and the US,’ continues Pras. ‘American systems are built on their cultural and political values, yet we still use them. For example, GDPR is taken very seriously in Europe, but not so much in the US. If you look at digital commerce – Amazon, AliExpress, eBay and so on – 75% of it is controlled by the US, 20% by China, 2% by Europe and 3% by the rest of the world. This even includes UT spin-offs, such as Booking.com.’

 'If you don’t control your infrastructure, it can be taken down without you even knowing' 

Isn’t working with the US while warning against working with the US quite a large paradox? ‘Absolutely,’ answers Pras. ‘But I want to be open about this paradox and bring focus to it so we can all change the system together. I’m worried about the digital sovereignty of Europe. I really mean that. If you don’t control your infrastructure, it can be taken down without you even knowing about it. Imagine if this happens in a military scenario, or if medical systems stop working. We need to build our infrastructure on trusted networks.’