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Europe needs cybersecurity agency, says Telefonica

Governments need to invest more in cybersecurity measures, telco security chief says

Europe must establish an international cybersecurity agency to battle the rise of online threats, according Telefonica's security chief.

Cybersecurity has changed dramatically since the early 2000s, Jose Luiz Gilperezsaid, and Europe is not prepared to fend off the new breed of threats.

Nowadays cybersecurity risks pose an equal danger to physical threats, he claimed, saying: "I don't think there's a big difference between the one and the other."

While lone troublemakers used to be the primary threat actors, cybersecurity is now "a matter of business, and a matter of states".

This issue was particularly foregrounded earlier this year, when the US Office of Personnel Management was hit by a cataclysmic data breach resulting in millions of people's data being leaked.

Various US officials accused China of perpetrating the attack, although the country has denied all involvement.

The country was also linked to DDoS attacks on GitHub, and was alleged to be using a cyberweapon known as the Great Cannon'.

While unproven, the claims against China appear to demonstrate Gilperez's observation that nation-states "have a lot of resources to create very, very sophisticated weapons".

In physical conflicts, you know how damaging an attack is likely to be, he said, "but in the cyber-war, you don't know the real impact an enemy can make".

To illustrate his point, Gilperez cited the fact that the US government's spending on cyber defence is around $14 billion, saying that "in Europe, we should be doing something like this as a whole region".

However, he also warns that a lack of skilled operatives could set any such project back. "You'll find maybe five people in the Spanish army with the adequate skill level", he said, suggesting that collaboration with the private sector could help bridge the digital skills gap.

His comments come after Chancellor George Osborne warned that terror group ISIS wants to hack UK infrastructure like hospitals, though it is not believed to have such capabilities yet.

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