The European Union has been taking action not only against general cybersecurity breaches, but also against the way that companies in general collect and protect private information. Romania’s cybersecurity strategy was particularly strict, and some questioned whether it was actually constitutional. Regardless, Romanian citizens may want to take action to protect their own data.
Hackers in Romania
Romania itself doesn’t experience a larger volume of cybersecurity breaches than other countries, but it has a large number of high-profile attackers who have attacked others. Guccifer, for instance, was a Romanian hacker who hacked high-profile Americans.
This has been fed by a large volume of talented individuals in the IT field who may not have had other outlets. Thus, Romanian enterprises have been working to put Romania on the map in terms of cybersecurity, rather than in terms of cyber attackers. Part of the reason cyber attackers come from Romania frequently, however, is because it’s very difficult to track them, and therefore it’s a low-risk proposition. Malware and phishing could be completed from Romania with very little risk to the person doing it.
The hope is that Romania can eventually become a powerhouse of cybersecurity talent, by redirecting the wealth of talent that is inside of the country.
Creating a Cybersecurity Ecosystem
So, the first way that Romania is trying to develop out its cybersecurity resources is by creating a culture of cybersecurity and cybersecurity opportunities. Companies in Romania like Bitdefender are promoting hacking spaces for white hat hackers, and hoping to create opportunities within this space. While this doesn’t reduce the number of incoming cybersecurity threats, it reduces the number of outgoing cybersecurity threats — and in total, is likely to reduce the amount of cyberattack activity within the country as a whole.
The cybersecurity world is a global one, and every country has to take action to protect not only its own data but its citizens. The European Union as a whole has concentrated primarily on issues of privacy and data retention, which are also critical elements in the fight against cybercriminals.
As the cybersecurity ecosystem grows, the hope is that more people will be focused on the areas of cybersecurity that really matter, and will be able to create new and varied technologies to keep Romania on the map as a developer rather than a potential hazard.
VPNs have become more popular as more employees have started to work remotely, and Romania is no exception. VPNs make it possible for individuals to secure their connections, for the purposes of protecting their files sharing, improving their performance, and overall enhancing their security. While many use VPNs recreationally to encrypt their data, others use it to create a connection between themselves and their work or student resources. But the level of security is determined by the technology itself. Surfshark provides VPN servers for customers in Romania: https://surfshark.com/servers/romania.
VPNs have historically been used primarily for highly secured connections, but more frequently people are starting to use them every day. Recreationally, many people use VPNs to access sites that may be "region-locked," though the legality of this is in a gray area depending on the site and its Terms of Service. In other locations, VPNs have been used as an activity taken against government censorship. When governments censor certain areas of the internet, VPNs can still be used to access it. This has made VPNs important for political reasons, as well, and it’s a reason why many prefer to at least understand VPN technology even if they don’t need it immediately.
Creating a National Strategy for Cybersecurity
The initiatives passed in 2013 were targeted toward developing and mobilizing a national strategy for cybersecurity. This included not only onboarding companies towards improving their own security, but also creating a culture of security and drastically reducing cybercrime within the country itself.
As well as this, Romania is seeking to promote the values and mission of the EU within the country.
• Improving cyber regulation with the EU. As mentioned, cybercrime had a tendency to run rampant in Romania, and there were many high-profile attackers from the area. Romania resolved to work with the EU and create mobilized units that could better respond to the potential for cybercrime. Cybercrime isn’t inherently damaging to Romania itself, because the cybercriminals largely attacked elsewhere. However, working together with the EU, and reducing cybercrime, helped Romania to redirect this energy towards revenue-generation rather than criminal activity.
• Raise general awareness of cybersecurity and its threats. Every country now needs to create a comprehensive cybersecurity campaign so that citizens adequately understand the potential costs of poor cybersecurity. Companies can lose millions of dollars overnight. Citizens can have their identities stolen and it may take months or even years to resolve the issues. With better knowledge, individual users are able to protect themselves, their households, and the companies that they either own or work for.
• Create more cooperation between the public and private sectors. Under the 2013 initiatives, private and public sectors were supposed to achieve better transparency and cooperation, so they could work together and share information regarding potential threats. This would make it far easier for corporations to protect themselves, and for the government to track down issues that need to be addressed.
Romania’s deployment was not without glitches; there were some who questioned constitutionality. When it comes to government initiatives, it can frequently be seen as something that damages personal freedoms and personal privacy. This is especially true when it comes to government organizations investigating, and government organizations working hand-in-hand with corporations to trade critical information. However, despite the backlash, Romania has been able to move forward with its initiatives.
The Consequences of Cybersecurity Improvement
It’s presently too early to really determine the consequences of Romania’s cybersecurity initiatives. Passed in 2013, it will still take some time to not only entirely implement as a whole but to see whether it has changed on the national and international landscape. But there are many countries that are improving their cybersecurity solutions throughout the EU. If countries are able to improve their cybersecurity together, then they should be able to neatly reduce cybersecurity crime and privacy issues.
Today, nothing happens in a vacuum. Cybersecurity is an international issue because the cyber world is global, and consequently anything that is done to regulate or improve upon cybersecurity use creates a ripple effect that affects all countries. Romania saw this when it had a multitude of high-profile hackers hit the news; the present Romanian infrastructure made it easier for such criminals to take action and to affect other countries. Now, Romania is working to isolate and improve upon this pool of talent and move them into cybersecurity ventures that are within the country rather than cybercrimes that go outside of it.
That being said, it does take time. Romania remains a hub of cybercrime despite the government efforts, in no small part because of simple inertia. Since criminals already existed in Romania, and since Romania had a reputation for this type of cybercrime, it does persist. Romania has a lot of work still to do to protect itself and other countries.
Protecting Cybersecurity Within Romania
What can citizens and businesses in Romania do to protect themselves? As noted, Romania is trying to improve its cybersecurity landscape, but there are still notable issues with cybersecurity inside of Romania — and still a proliferation of gangs. Those who want to protect themselves should:
• Use a VPN. VPNs will protect your network when sharing and accessing files and create a direct connection between you and the resources you want to connect to. They can also be used to obscure your browsing history and other data, so attackers who are on your device are not able to access personal and identifiable information that could be used to steal your financial information or your identity.
• Always use encrypted WiFi. Connecting to public WiFi is one of the most persistent security threats because it enables someone to hijack your data. If you don’t want to fall victim to cybercrime or become a part of cybercrime, it’s better to make sure that you’re always on an encrypted connection.
• Update and secure your devices. This includes IoT devices like smart technology and smart light bulbs. Because cybercrime is usually targeted outside of the country, citizens might feel safe; but citizen devices can be used to commit cybercrime as well, even if they are not the ultimate target.
• Educate yourself. Learning more about the most recent cybersecurity threats, such as malware and phishing, makes it much easier to detect and avoid them.
Cybersecurity is an issue that’s going to continue growing, and Romania has taken direct action to start to reduce the threats. While Romania is no more or less a target than anywhere else in the world or the EU, it’s important for governments to start handling cybersecurity at a higher level. Citizens of any country don’t necessarily have the control that they would need to bolster widespread adoption, whereas companies are able to provide a push toward better cybersecurity overall.
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