Featured Understanding the EU approach in the AI and cybersecurity nexus

Published on September 23rd, 2022 📆 | 1855 Views ⚑


Understanding the EU approach in the AI and cybersecurity nexus


Digital technologies have a huge role in complicating and transforming present-day conflicts. The current war between Russia and Ukraine is also played out in cyberspace, involving multiple public and private actors. Such developments matter as they are consistent with a long history of cyber conflict running alongside and feeding into kinetic operations.  

The cross-border effects led the EU to issue a declaration on 10th May 2022, strongly condemning malicious cyber activity conducted by the Russian Federation, facilitating the military invasion of Ukraine. Among actors amplifying the cyber dimension of the conflict are tech companies, which have supported the Ukrainian effort by deploying state-of-the-art cyber capabilities. These include disruptive technologies, in particular, AI, in cyber operations.  

For instance, it has been reported that Ukraine is using Clearview AI’s facial recognition software to identify Russian soldiers and Ukrainians killed on the battlefield. However, using these cyber tools in an ongoing war is both a novelty and an added complication, as these may tamper with or potentially generate new conflict dynamics. 

European Commission highlights in its Proposal for a Regulations Laying Down Harmonized Rules on AI that by improving prediction, optimizing operations and resource allocation, AI can support socially and environmentally beneficial outcomes and provide critical competitive advantages to companies and the European economy. 

AI and Cybersecurity  

Cybersecurity is an integral part of European security. At the same time, cybersecurity is a domain that could arguably harness the power of AI systems. Innovative AI-based solutions, from new techniques and algorithms helping to speed up mundane yet time-consuming tasks to Ai-supported cyber capabilities with potential strategic significance, all presently deployed applications and those at earlier stages of development, display features that may revolutionize cybersecurity methods. Compared to conventional methods, they are expected to operate at greater scale and speed and be more adaptable and stealthier. 

ENISA, in its report on AI Cyber security challenges, distinguishes between AI targeting and Ai supported Cyberattacks. This multidirectional linkage between cybersecurity and AI systems defines an increasingly relevant policy nexus, which should be of high concern to the EU. The report also recommends that the EU needs to dedicate more attention to how the AI and cyber nexus play out in the context of an evolving threat landscape and in the case of both cybersecurity and cyber defence capabilities and operations.  

Governance Challenges

The EU has acknowledged the need to explore the operational use of AI systems in support of broader cybersecurity aims and interests. In its 2020 EU Cybersecurity Strategy, the European Commission proposes to build a network of security operation centers (SOCs) for threat intelligence powered by AI in the form of the EU Cyber Shield.  

AI systems are increasingly embedded into the daily operations of cybersecurity teams in the private and public sectors, aiding in the effort to protect firms and organizations. EU actors seem to have noticed these types of functionalities when drafting plans for the European Cyber Shield and SOCs. 

The EU Responses 

The EU has taken regulatory, policy and operational initiatives with heightened relevance for the AI-cybersecurity nexus. They are part of recent efforts toward the overall consolidation of the EU’s technological leadership and sovereignty in critical technological areas and its economic competitive and strategic autonomy in security and defence.  

The EU is pursuing the twin goals of establishing a robust cybersecurity architecture and harnessing the benefits of AI for broader societal and economic security and defence. Yet if the goal is to ensure the cybersecurity rollout of AI systems and services and that both the dimensions of AI for cybersecurity and cyber-secure AI feature prominently on the EU’s polity and operational agendas. 


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