Italy establishes national cyber agency

PM Draghi warned that the level of Russian interference online "has become truly alarming", while the Minister of Innovation said that 95% of public administration servers do not have adequate protection

The prime minister of Italy, Mario Draghi. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli

The Italian government is stepping up its efforts in dealing with the ever-spreading cyberattack pandemic, and is establishing a national cyber agency that will under the direct authority of the Prime Minister. The goal of this new agency, according to an official government statement, will be "to protect national interests and the resilience of services and essential functions of the state from cyberthreats".

The agency, whose establishment was authorized by the cabinet last Thursday, will initially have a staff of 300 experts that is expected to grow to 800 by 2027, with a budget of 530 million euros over the next five years. It's head, who will serve for a four-year term with a two-term limit (eight years att most), has yet to be announced.  

"We have 93-95% of public administration servers not in safe conditions," warned Vittorio Colao, the minister for Technological Innovation and Digital Transition. "La Stampa" quoted the undersecretary responsible for intelligence, Franco Gabrielli, as acknowledging that the country is vulnerable "due to a lack of awareness of the risks, due to a lack of culture on these issues. Unfortunately we are very late and we have to walk very quickly." Italy, the first country in the world to go into a lockdown because of COVID-19, was also one of the first victims of the increase in cyberattacks worldwide that continues to grow.  

The threats are not only internal. Italy is also observing with concern the interference from the east, similar to its allies in the European Union and NATO. "We need to strengthen ourselves a lot, especially in terms of cybersecurity, all of us, at national level and at EU level... because the level of (Russian) interference both with spies and with manipulation of the web has become truly alarming," said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi at the EU leaders summit that took place in Brussels last month. 

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