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2020/01/22How the SPARTA Network strengthens EU’s cybersecurity capacities

Cybersecurity is not a new problem. What is new is the impact that cybersecurity has on society, amplified by the complexity and pervasiveness of modern systems. From the email servers in the 1990s, to the credit card information in the 2000s, to national critical infrastructures and the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizen in the face of ubiquitous data collection in the 2010s, the security of digital systems has become a matter of strategic importance as impacts diversify and complexity grows. The geopolitical implications, as highlighted by the European Commission President Juncker, are staggering:

“Cyber-attacks can be more dangerous to the stability of democracies and economies than guns and tanks”[1]

To face those threats, the first responses have known little coordination. Local and domain-specific approaches have sought to patch holes and recover the situation. However, these short-term, narrow efforts have quickly shown the need not only for more fundamental ways to address the problem but for an increased and more effective cooperation. In this regard an international race has started:

“We’re inventing new ways to collaborate and cooperate, at levels and speeds and dimensions that were never before possible. […]. Cooperation is really the stepping stone of civilization, human innovation and progress. Anything that we can imagine, that can be collaborated and cooperated on – that’s what we are going to do.”[2]

In this race, EU’s strategic interest is to ensure it develops and retains essential capacities to secure its digital economy, infrastructures, society, and democracy. At the moment Europe’s cybersecurity research, competences, and investments are spread across Europe with too little alignment.

Nonetheless, with one of the greatest and most multi-cultural research ecosystems in the world, the EU has the means to take on this challenge, structure its cybersecurity landscape and capacities, and break new ground with a new generation of cybersecurity network. To this aim, the European Commission has announced its intention to create a Cybersecurity Competence Network with a European Cybersecurity Research and Competence Centre.

 

This is SPARTA

To respond to EU’s objectives and uphold their interests, the SPARTA consortium, led by CEA, assembles a balanced set of 44 actors from 14 EU Member States at the intersection of scientific excellence, technological innovation, and societal sciences in cybersecurity. Together, along with SPARTA Associates and SPARTA Friends, they aim at establishing and operating a pilot for an EU Cybersecurity Competence Network, setting up unique collaboration means and re-imagining the way cybersecurity research, innovation, and training are performed in Europe, from foundations to applications, in academia and industry.

 

Roadmap, Partnership, and Programs

Three main activities organize SPARTA. The first one is a Cybersecurity Research & Innovation Roadmap, an ambitious and continuously-evolving process to identify emerging trends and new societal, ethical, and industrial challenges in the complex field of cybersecurity. It leverages Europe’s strengths and opportunities across multiple disciplines, maturity levels and geographical locations.

The second activity makes Partnership a pillar of the EU’s future in cybersecurity, by setting up infrastructures and platforms to enable research and innovation collaborations, leveraging the strengths of already existing structures and organizations as well as fostering interaction with and among the SPARTA Associates and Friends community.

Last but not least, Research & Innovation Programs encourage the use of creative approaches in the implementation of the roadmap into concrete and actionable results. While this requires careful monitoring and feedback, the expertise gathered in SPARTA allows to tackle the most strategic challenges faced today by digital societies. To ensure the sustainability and the impact of their outputs, these Programs are supported, in turn, by activities on societal, legal, ethical and privacy aspects of research; on dissemination, exploitation and IPR; and on potential interactions with existing and new certification practices.

Table 1: SPARTA Programs

T-SHARK explores innovative work in full-spectrum situational awareness, with the goal of enabling the supervision of complex systems over heterogeneous time scales.

CAPE investigates new avenues for continuous assessment in polymorphous environments, creating new evaluation tools and techniques for handling tomorrow’s dynamic and elastic digital systems.

HAII-T aims to create a toolkit for high-assurance intelligent infrastructure, incorporating pivotal components for secure and resilient intelligent infrastructures.

SAFAIR devises secure and fair AI systems for citizen, delving into innovative approaches to make systems using AI more reliable and resilient.

 

SPARTA represents a committed effort in Europe to ensure the EU keeps and develops essential cybersecurity capacities. SPARTA helps integrating national and European activities in a coherent way, reducing fragmentation at European, national, and regional levels and contributing to their alignment. For the benefit of the community, the platforms and infrastructure integrated in SPARTA will help to sustain European industries and workforce with the latest technologies, expertise, education, and training, acting as key enablers for the objective of European strategic autonomy.

United we stand, in Diversity we prevail

 

[1] President Jean-Claude Juncker, State of the Union Address 2017, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-17-3165_en.htm

[2] Kevin Kelly, The Next 30 Digital Years, http://longnow.org/seminars/02016/jul/14/next-30-digital-years/