Resilient cybersecurity solutions for European businesses
While information technologies have opened up new business opportunities, they have also left companies exposed to new threats. Smaller companies in particular are often ill-prepared to defend against cyberattacks. An EU-funded project has developed new tools to help businesses, and by extension citizens, protect themselves better and have made these available on an easy-to-use platform.
© DmitryRazinkov, #266549367, source:stock.adobe.com 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined, like never before, the global economys increasing dependence on Information Technologies (IT). Companies of all sizes and across all sectors rely on IT solutions to conduct daily operations and interact with suppliers and consumers.
This means however that when cybersecurity incidents occur, major economic damage can be inflicted. Cyberattacks also undermine the trust of citizens and enterprises in our burgeoning digital society.
The online theft of commercial trade secrets, business information and personal data, and the disruption of services all these incidents result in economic losses, explains FORTIKA project coordinator Anastasios Drosou, senior researcher at the Centre for Research & Technology Hellas (CERTH) in Greece. The estimated cost of cybercrime to the global economy was reported to be more than EUR 775 billion a year. Cybersecurity threats can also have serious consequences for citizens fundamental rights, such as privacy.
Strong cybersecurity tools
The FORTIKA project was launched with the specific aim of helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to tackle this threat. Smaller businesses tend to have limited resources, and often lack in-house expertise. We know that the vulnerability of a company to cyberattacks is inversely proportional to their size, says Drosou. SMEs are often poorly prepared to defend themselves and their digital assets, and to protect their clients data and privacy.
The project consortium set about creating tools specifically for SME needs. Cybersecurity services powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms for example were developed to carry out threat identification and mitigation. The project also evaluated the legal and ethical aspects of cybersecurity protection and incorporated these elements into their proposed technical solutions.
The FORTIKA AI tool for example watches a companys network, identifies any threats and initiates countermeasures if needed, adds Drosou. Services like this can be easily deployed via an affordable hardware device called the FORTIKA Gateway, which is installed by the SMEs themselves.
A key advantage of the Gateway device is that it implements a novel hardware-based technology known as Edge Acceleration. Edge Acceleration exploits Edge Computing (i.e. computing done at or near the source of the data), enabling SMEs to access high levels of computing power efficiently and affordably.
A Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) component has also been developed. This customisable and highly interactive visual interface offers end users a friendly, easily understandable and comprehensive real-time view of their assets, security status and ongoing mitigation operations.
Another key success of the project has been the development of an innovative platform. The FORTIKA marketplace, as it is called, gives SMEs access to innovations developed both within the project and by third parties. This one-stop shop enables companies to search for, select and download the cybersecurity solutions they need. An aim of the FORTIKA marketplace is to orientate small business users towards trusted cybersecurity services, says Drosou.
The marketplace is not just a means of eventually promoting the cybersecurity tools that were developed by the FORTIKA consortium. It is an open platform, where a range of cybersecurity services can be marketed to SMEs worldwide. By giving SMEs access to high-level cybersecurity at low cost, and with minimal effort, they will then be able to concentrate their limited resources on their core operations and thrive.
Strengthening the resilience of small businesses which form the backbone of Europes economy also means providing some much-needed confidence at a time of global uncertainty. The eventual commercialisation of FORTIKAs proposed solutions and the launch of the marketplace will also help to create new employment opportunities in the European cybersecurity industry and research fields.