Centre for Cybersecurity foresees increase in cyberattacks

The number of cyberattacks increased significantly in 2023 and is expected to increase further this year due to the geopolitical context, the Belgium's Centre for Cybersecurity (CCB) said on Thursday at the Brussels Cybersecurity Summit.

The two-day summit, held in Brussels as part of the Belgian presidency of the EU, brings together 500 European policymakers and experts in cybersecurity policy, investment and cyber threat intelligence. Together, they will assess current threats and European initiatives and examine future challenges.

Last year, ransomware was the most significant and persistent threat to European governments, local authorities, healthcare, industry and IT. This is a virus that encrypts a user's files to decrypt them later in exchange for a ransom.

"In Belgium, 120 unique cases of ransomware were reported last year, compared to 101 in 2022," said Clara Grillet, cyber threat intelligence analyst at the CCB. The CCB issued warnings to 302 organisations about the potential impact of ransomware last year.

Political espionage

DDoS attacks were also a persistent threat in 2023, albeit with relatively low impact. These attacks temporarily disrupt targeted organisations' availability of specific resources or services.

The CCB emphasised that political espionage has been on the rise since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It warns that the power of DDoS attacks has increased, and new techniques have been discovered to cause more damage. In addition, those targeted in an attack are often future victims.

With the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza and important elections coming up, the CCB expects a further increase in cyberattacks in 2024. Belgium will remain a target for cyber espionage, with Brussels being home to many international companies, organisations and EU institutions, the CCB said.

Despite these challenges, Belgium has an excellent international position in terms of cybersecurity. According to the National Cyber Security Index, a live global index that measures countries' readiness to prevent cyber threats and manage cyber incidents, Belgium ranked first in 2023.

Unclear leadership

Miguel De Bruycker, director general of the CCB, acknowledges the progress made in European cybersecurity cooperation in recent years but stresses the remaining challenges. He points to "unclear leadership", with different authorities responsible for cybersecurity in different countries.

In addition, the cyber domain is predominantly private, making it difficult for governments to respond to threats and incidents. De Bruycker proposes a new initiative, Active Cyber Protection, to take further steps in cybersecurity.


Illustration shows the CCB in Brussels © BELGA PHOTO HATIM KAGHAT

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