Cyprus evolving into cybersecurity hub

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Cyprus has set out to serve as a communication bridge between the Middle East and Europe in cybersecurity.

The island is positioning itself as a key regional cybersecurity services hub and will host a major conference addressing cyberattacks.

Limassol will host the Europe & Asia-Pacific Interregional CyberDrill conference between November 28 and December 1, organised by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Digital Security Authority (DSA) of Cyprus.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, Communications Commissioner George Michaelides, to whom the DSA reports, said the CyberDrill conference aims to improve cybersecurity readiness, protection, and incident response capabilities of Member States.

“It is, of course, an honour to host the conference, but it is also a direct result of the work we have been putting in to build cybersecurity capacity and promoting the island as a regional cybersecurity services centre,” said Michaelides.

ITU organises CyberDrills to enhance cybersecurity capacity at the national and regional levels.

“This event where cyber-attacks, information security incidents, and other disruptions are simulated helps to test an organisation’s or state’s capabilities to responding to cybersecurity threats and attacks,” said the Commissioner.

Over the past ten years, ITU has held over 30 CyberDrills, partnering with more than 100 countries committed to improving cybersecurity at national and global levels.

Cyprus is hosting the conference for the second time after successfully holding the event in 2018.

This event is part of the ITU Regional Initiative for Asia and the Pacific to contribute to a secure and resilient information and communication technology environment, as agreed upon by the 2022 World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-22).

“Significant growth in internet use has been recorded in recent years, with threats increasing, with a large number of threats and attacks arising following regional conflicts such as the war in Ukraine”.

The Commissioner said 200 participants from 34 countries will be at the event to discuss the status and plans of cooperation in cybersecurity, the state of play in the region, the state of national operation and the need to further enhance their work in the participating economies.

“We are pleased to see that more than half of the participants are Cypriot, as one of our aims is to increase the state and business cybersecurity capacity,” said Michaelides.

“However, as the Digital Security Authority, we are not stopping here but moving forward with creating other structures for disbursing funds from the European Union for cybersecurity in the country, either for business or research.

“We are building a structure to make Cyprus a centre of services and products certification for cybersecurity”.

The DSA is building a 600-square-metre training facility for local and international conferences.

Cybercrime

Earlier in the year, Cyprus suffered from a series of high-impact cyber incidents, the most notable being a paralysing attack against the Land Registry’s online portal on March 8.

In January, hackers targeted the emails of members of the Cyprus University of Technology (TEPAK).

After gaining access to the accounts, the hackers managed to trick officials by giving instructions to pay a ‘significant amount,’ pretending to be a European Union agency.

The state-funded University of Cyprus also saw servers shut down to prevent malicious access following an attack in March.

One in four

Around one in four businesses have faced some form of cyber-attack, according to a recent survey by the Cyprus Information Technology Enterprises Association (CITEA).

A new initiative, the CITEA INDEX, also measures how well companies adapt to and utilise digital technologies.

According to the results of this index, almost 60% of businesses in Cyprus were either starting with digital transformation or were experimenting and learning about digital tools.

According to the survey, 97% of respondents considered cyber security technologies and tactics quite/very important, compared to 89% last year.

Some 26% of businesses said they had experienced a cyberattack, while 88% reported taking steps to counter such attacks, a massive increase from last year when 39% said they had taken such steps.

Also, 85% of businesses reported they intend to invest in digital transformation within the next year, with 24% reserving up to €10,000 for this purpose, 46% from €11,000-€100,000 and 14% over €100,000.

Regarding other forms of cybercrime, the Ministry of Justice said that until the end of September, 240 cases had been investigated.

These were 85 cases of possession of child pornography, 44 cases of invitation to child pornography, 39 cases of illegal access (hacking), 42 cases of computer forgery and 20 cases of racist comments.