New policies put forward by the EU will declare cyber-attacks from hostile nations to be considered as an act of war. Under the most serious of circumstances, can be retaliated against using conventional weapons.
The framework on a Joint EU Diplomatic Response to Malicious Cyber Activities, is set to be agreed to by all 28 EU members. It will be used as a strong preemptive measure against countries renowned for launching cyber-attacks (North-Korea and Russia have been mentioned by The Telegraph, who obtained a draft of the new document).
The new policy also sets out that EU member states that fall victim to cyber-attacks can not only wage war in retaliation, but are also entitled to assistance from other EU governments. Such responses would likely include (but not confirmed to be) diplomatic pressure, public condemnation and sanctions.
A source from within the EU told the Telegraph that the framework "will make an attacker weigh the consequences of a cyberattack more carefully," adding that implementing a strong response "shows we are serious."
Featured in a press release earlier this year, the EU announced its intention to develop the framework, whereby they mentioned that they are “concerned by the increased ability and willingness of state and non-state actors to pursue their objectives through malicious cyber-activities."
This step comes in the wake of the UK government publically admitting that North Korea was behind the “WannaCry” ransomware outbreak that crippled the NHS in May. Ben Wallace, Security Minister, said "We can be as sure as possible. I obviously can’t go into the detail of intelligence, but it is widely believed in the community and across a number of countries that North Korea had taken this role."
It seems that international/state-sponsored cyber-attacks are beginning to be recognised more and more as a serious threat. In early October we saw the ex-deputy head of MI5 speak out on the changing landscape of cyber-attacks and its undermining of our national security. It’s uncertain at this point whether this sort of legislation will deter attackers, it could even stoke the flame.
European Union governments will formally state that cyber attacks can be an act of war in a show of strength to countries such as Russia and North Korea. Diplomats and ambassadors in Brussels have drafted a document, obtained by The Telegraph, that represents an unprecedented deterrent aimed at countries using hackers and cyber espionage against EU members.