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EU plans to launch bloc-wide cyber task force

The proposed Joint Cyber Unit is set to be unveiled on Wednesday and will likely operate out of Brussels

The European Union has reportedly drafted plans for a new cyber security task force that will respond to attacks across the bloc.

The 'Joint Cyber Unit' could be unveiled by the European Commission as soon as Wednesday, according to proposals seen by Politico.

The unit would allow member states hit by cyber attacks to ask for help from other countries within the EU, including through rapid response teams that will be deployed to fight off hackers "in real-time", according to the draft. 

The plans come in response to the growing threat of cyber attacks that have plagued the continent over the last few years, which included the first death caused by a ransomware attack on a Berlin hospital, earlier in the year. The drafted plans aim to pool together the cyber security powers of all the national governments within the bloc. 

A specific, central cyber unit was first talked up by the commission in 2019, as a way of stopping cyber attacks that could compromise EU institutions, agencies and leading European companies and organisations.

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What is due to come on Wednesday is merely an official "recommendation" to national governments that would put the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) in charge of the unit, potentially from an office in Brussels, and will be similar to the Washington-based ransomware task force recently proposed by the US government. The European version would theoretically coordinate existing work between cyber agencies and authorities across the bloc.

"Over the last few weeks we have seen governments take positive steps to bolster cyber security, and this is another positive step," said Raghu Nandakumara, field CTO at Illumio.

"Cyber security is always most effective when there is healthy collaboration between groups, and in that light the formation of the Joint Cyber Unit by the European Commission is very welcome. It's a logical progression from the 2016 NIS Directive which required individual member states to be appropriately equipped, facilitated strategic cooperation and information exchange, and imbibed a culture of security in sectors critical to the economy and security."

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