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INTERVIEW - Bulgaria needs to involve IT industry in cybersecurity system to fend off potential cyber attacks

INTERVIEW - Bulgaria needs to involve IT industry in cybersecurity system to fend off potential cyber attacks Author: Christoph Scholz.

February 25 (SeeNews) - Bulgaria needs to make full use of the mechanisms provided by its EU and NATO membership and tap the experience of the IT sector in building a comprehensive cybersecurity system to counteract heightened risks of cyber attacks stemming from support for Ukraine, former Bulgarian defence minister Velizar Shalamanov said on Friday.

"Cyberattacks can be organised very quickly and they can have a huge impact. We are living in very dynamic times. If Bulgaria shows courage in the process of taking important decisions in support of Ukraine, its vital systems could come under serious attack," Shalamanov told SeeNews in a phone interview on the second day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The potential targets are all services that, if hit, would deprive people of their comfort and cause economic loss, he added.

"We are all heavily reliant on electronic services related to the banks and the administration and unfortunately, we are growing increasingly and invisibly dependent on electronic services for vital systems such as power supply and water supply," Shalamanov said.

The media and the social networks too could be attacked by means of disinformation campaigns, he added.

"It is very hard within a short time to make up for gaps in something that practically takes years to build, because in the sphere of cybersecurity people are the most vulnerable element," Shalamanov noted. "Much bigger attention should be paid to understanding this problem".

Besides digital hygiene measures, Bulgaria should make full use of its NATO and EU membership, according to Shalamanov.

"There are existing mechanisms that allow for the exchange of information and support between the NATO headquarters and the allies and they should be fully used practically every time there is an accident, because the damage often spreads quickly and it is often too late if the first response was slow," he commented.

The IT industry too should be involved in the institutional cybersecurity system, in his view.

"Our IT companies have a vast experience but it has not been tapped and used in the cybersecurty system so far," he opined.

Inefficient coordination so far between the state bodies in charge of cybersecurity is a major obstacle to counteracting cyber attacks quickly, according to Shalamanov.

"The legislation itself, the Cybersecurity Act, scatters responsibilities among far too many stakeholders - the ministries of interior, defence and foreign affairs, the national security agency , the e-government agency. When the organisation is so complex, the management, coordination and institutional environment are key to achieving efficiency."