Member States representatives together with cyber research experts from the European Cyber Security Organisation (ECSO), industry, research organisations and academia recently met at an EDA workshop to discuss ‘Autonomous Cyber Responses’. This research topic refers to the challenges brought about by the automation in cyber defence and includes among others self-configured networks, automated cyber resilience, decision support systems, visual analytics, autonomous mobile cyber defence agents, man-machine modules and machine learning models to address the cyber research challenges Member States’ Armed Forces are confronted with.
The objective of the workshop was to provide EDA’s Cyber Research and Technology Ad Hoc Working Group with examples of European research efforts and solutions, to identify capability gaps that could be covered with this technology and to explore new collaboration initiatives in this challenging field.
Participants acknowledged the urgency of meaningful collaborative research activities at EU level in view of building tomorrow’s defence capabilities, and supported the continuation of similar initiatives. A so-called ‘Interested Community of Experts’ (ICE) set up within the Ad Hoc Working Group will perform an evaluation of the proposals discussed at the workshop. Outline descriptions for future collaborative research projects in this field are expected to be presented to Member States in the upcoming meetings.
The potential benefits that European Armed Forces could draw from the use of cyber-resilient autonomous systems have also been recognised by EU Member States. One of the 11 EU Capability Development Priorities approved by Member States in June 2018 is called “Enabling capabilities for cyber responsive operations”.
The Overarching Strategic Research Agenda (OSRA) - which provides a necessary link between R&T efforts and the military tasks and long-term capability needs of the Capability Development Plan (CDP) - identified a number of Research and Technology areas, the so-called Technology Building Blocks (TBBs), in which a cooperative approach at the European level would bring an added-value to support the development of defence capabilities. The Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) on Cyber Defence developed within the relevant EDA Ad Hoc Working Group in compliance with OSRA requirements provides informed prioritisation on cyber-related technologies necessary for the military while identifying opportunities for dual-use efforts and investments, be it in national, multinational or EU-funded contexts. Autonomous Cyber Response is one of the TBBs developed under the Cyber SRA.
In November 2018, the European Council adopted an updated version of the EU cyber defence policy framework (CDPF) which calls for considering cyber defence issues in the calls of the Preparatory Action on Defence Research and in the topics called for in the European Defence Fund.