Why Cybersecurity and Privacy Are Key Cornerstones for Europe’s Digital Future

This guest blog post was written by Mirza Silajdzic


Raising awareness about the importance of cybersecurity and privacy in a hyper-connected era.

As we venture into 2022 and beyond, the practice and implementation of cybersecurity and privacy facets in a digitally transformed world have become necessary globally. Concrete evidence of this is that Allianz now recognises cyber risks as the number one global threat, surpassing even Covid-19 and natural disasters. Evermore connected global citizens are also increasingly aware and sensitive about their personal data, which is commensurate with the weltgeist. The education of connected citizens and organisations geared towards a better knowledge of tools and best practices related to cybersecurity and privacy is a major key cornerstone in an increasingly fragile climate. This is exemplified by forerunner regulations such as the EU’s GDPR to address and mitigate these serious issues. Embracing these key areas as we advance is critical not just for the survival, stability, and sustainability of governmental institutions, large organisations, and SMEs based in the EU and around the globe, but for ‘homo-technologicus’ on whose shoulders the future rests ad infinitum. To underpin this grand cause, the EU is creating a fairer digital world from 2022 onwards by instating tough but necessary data policies in a market dominated by Big Tech gatekeepers.

With SMEs being a vital component of the EU economy, it is in their hands to provide digital solutions to improve cybersecurity and data privacy for individuals and organisations, supplementing several relevant EU frameworks discussed in detail below. Companies such as VPNOverview, the authors of this post, provide everyday solutions that allow European citizens and European companies to engage with the digital transformation securely and privately.

 

The World Wide Web at a glance

The digital transformation of society is well underway, and the openly available analytics conducted by research companies on this trend is staggering. Namely, approximately 62% of the world’s population has access to the internet today, equating to 5 billion people, the majority of which do so via smartphones. Most of this internet usage (over 50%) stems from Asia, followed by Europe and the United States, with leading platforms Google, YouTube, and Facebook as the top three most visited platforms globally. Together, these major internet pillars attract over 10 billion visitors every month, with users between the ages of 16 and 64 spending over six hours on the internet on average. Economically speaking, by 2023, global spending on digital transformation is expected to reach 7 trillion Euros with a compound annual growth rate of over 19% between 2021 and 2026.

In the past twenty years, internet usage has increased by over 1200%, catalysed by the advent of smartphones and social media, skyrocketing between 2010 and 2022. There are well over one billion websites online, and by 2035 an estimated 40 billion IoT (Internet of Things) devices will be online. Meanwhile, all told, the entire internet could physically fit into a relatively large swimming pool, something once deemed impossible.

 

The EU’s focus on innovation, cybersecurity, and privacy

Consequently, the digital economy grows exponentially with thousands of disruptive technologies cropping up on the horizon. Such major disruptive paradigms include artificial intelligence and decentralisation in the form of blockchain technology. Blockchain particularly promises to change how we understand cybersecurity and privacy and change the global economy. For instance, there is already a deep focus on such facets, evident in the EU-funded PUZZLE project that emphasises the importance of security and privacy.

We can also safely anticipate the appearance of additional disruptive paradigms like NFTs and a gamified digital world, not to mention advancements in AI and machine learning. All are promising to change how we do business and ultimately lead to the next generation of a hyper-connected, extremely interactive intelligent cyberspace: Web 3.0.

 

Protecting CPS assets and systems for a safer future in a volatile threat landscape

Perhaps even more immediate than the former is that the essential building blocks of our nations and cities are likewise being digitally transformed in the name of increased efficiency, speed, and collaboration. These building blocks of society are consolidated into online cyber-physical systems (CPS), i.e., everything from hospitals to industrial power plants. Therein lies the risk of cyber attacks and cyber incidents, as with fragile digital data and digital systems, which EU institutions such as ENISA have detailed in their ENISA Threat Landscape 2021 report.

 

Data: the holy grail?

Therefore, such a massive, accelerated paradigm shift for humanity within the last twenty years places us before a steep precipice or a vertical climb into the unknown, depending entirely on how we handle what comes next. On a global level, this requires the most comprehensive policies and solid frameworks to be put in place. If data is the holy grail, then laying the foundations of cybersecurity and privacy for a digitally transformed world certainly is the major pillar for modern society going forward, not to mention one for Europe’s digital future.

For instance, the EU, an innovative and progressive global economy, is implementing digital sovereignty as an anchor point for independence in a digital world that allows for freedom of choice in a globally competitive, shifting, and extremely complex digital milieu. Secondly, the EU has recognised the importance of security requirements for robust solutions in orchestrating 5G, Edge Computing, and IoT events.

With SMEs being a vital component of the world economy, particularly the European economy, making up over 99% of EU businesses, translating into about 25 million companies, the importance of cybersecurity and privacy awareness cannot be stressed enough. Naturally, fostering a healthy EU-US information highway is yet another major pillar of the global economy.

Currently, the EU is working hard on creating a fairer global digital economy with acts such as the Digital Markets Act (DMA), the Digital Services Act (DSA), the artificial intelligence (AI Act), and the Data Act already on the table, waiting to be set in motion.

 

Cybersecurity and privacy are increasingly important in a multipolar world

In what is increasingly referred to as a multipolar world spearheaded by the shifting paradigms of geopolitics and technology, it is crucial to focus on the digital transformation, data regulations, the issue of cybercrime, how data is processed, how user consent is handled, and ultimately the human right to privacy and security on the web. Even still, ushering in revolutionary technological advancements means being realistic about costs and energy efficiency and doing so on granular levels with scalability in mind.

Cybersecurity and privacy need to be built into services and products from the ground up to achieve these goals, as is awareness surrounding cybersecurity tools and fostering privacy-related awareness. This translates into a solid grasp of VPNs, security suites, password hygiene, and best practices like applying social media privacy settings and using privacy-focused applications such as browsers or messaging services. Adding to that, the use of secure end-to-end encrypted apps that align transparently with proprietary Privacy Policies and Terms of Service is the right way forward. The e-Privacy directive that supplements the GDPR is an excellent example of how the EU is thinking about the future of privacy.

I hope that small nations with great potential like my home country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and those like it, will embrace technology to a greater extent. Namely, this can be done by contributing to the blossoming of cybersecurity sectors and privacy initiatives and the necessary awareness around the world.

 

Author information

This guest post was written by Mirza Silajdzic, a communications specialist and researcher from Bosnia and Herzegovina working for VPNOverview. He is passionate about our technological future and global policy. You can follow him via his LinkedIn.

VPNOverview is a member of the European Digital Innovators Club – the DIGITAL SME’s network bringing together innovative SMEs, start-ups and research institutions wanting to be leaders of the European digital sector.

 

 

 

 

Recommendations for further reading:

CYBERSECURITY MADE IN EUROPE

https://www.enisa.europa.eu/publications/enisa-threat-landscape-2021

https://www.agcs.allianz.com/news-and-insights/news/allianz-risk-barometer-2022-press.html

 

This article was written by a guest author and the opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of the European DIGITAL SME Alliance. This article is not a commercial initiative. As part of our effort to put digital SMEs at the heart of Europe’s digital transformation, DIGITAL SME’s team welcomes insightful articles to share with our audience. Interested in the topic of cybersecurity and data protection? Browse this page for more related articles on our website. If you would like to propose a topic for another article, please contact us at office@digitalsme.eu.

 

 

 

Contact Us