News In Context

EU Lawmakers Tackle Chips, Cybersecurity And Crypto

Lawmakers in Brussels this week backed separate bills that will allocate €43 billion to bolster Europe’s competitiveness and resilience in semiconductor technologies and applications, strengthen cybersecurity capabilities across EU member states, and regulate crypto asset markets.

A political deal paving the way for the formal adoption of the EU Chips Act was struck at a negotiation session between the EU’s main institutions on April 18. Chips are crucial to achieving both the digital and green transition and are strategic for key industrial value chains. Europe’s Chip Act, which aims to double the bloc’s share of global chip output to 20% by 2030 and follows the U.S. CHIPS for America Act, addresses the fact that Europe’s share of the global microchips market is only 10%. Recent global semiconductor shortages forced factory closures in a range of sectors, from cars to healthcare devices, emphasizing the  global dependency of the semiconductor value chain on a very limited number of actors in a complex geopolitical context.

The Chips Act proposes: 

  • Investments in next-generation technologies
  • Providing access across Europe to design tools and pilot lines for the prototyping, testing and experimentation of cutting-edge chips
  • Certification procedures for energy-efficient and trusted chips to guarantee quality and security for critical applications
  • A more investor-friendly framework for establishing manufacturing facilities in Europe
  • Support for innovative start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs in accessing equity finance
  • Fostering skills, talent and innovation in microelectronics
  • Tools for anticipating and responding to semiconductors shortages and crises to ensure security of supply
  • Building semiconductor international partnerships with like-minded countries

(See The Innovator’s related story about SiPearl, a French fabless chip startup designing a low-power high performance computing microprocessor to power European supercomputers and later help drive European-made autonomous vehicles).

But the EU may struggle to close the gap with rivals, analysts such as Paul Triolo, a China and tech expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic & International Studies, told Reuters.”The critical piece of the equation which the EU will need to get right, as for the U.S., is how much of the supply chains supporting the industry can be moved to the EU and at what cost,” said Triolo.

Separately, in a week in which cyber criminals were accused of attacking U.S. and UK government agencies and the agency in charge of Europe’s air traffic control, the European Commission  moved to shore up its cyber defenses with the EU Cyber Solidarity Act, a €1.1 billion plan that aims to strengthen cybersecurity capabilities across EU member states, creating a “European cybersecurity shield.”

In its announcement, the commission explained that “the Cyber Solidarity Act establishes EU capabilities to make Europe more resilient and reactive in front of cyber threats.”One of these capabilities is the introduction of national and cross-border security operation centers (SOCs) across the continent to help member states detect and respond to cyberattacks and share warnings about incidents.  (For more on cybersecurity see The Innovator’s Interview Of The Week with Oyku Isik, an IMD professor and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Cybersecurity)

Meanwhile the European Parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly backed the European Union’s first set of rules to regulate crypto asset markets.

Parliament voted by 517 in favour and 38 against to approve the world’s first comprehensive set of regulations for issuing and trading crypto assets such as bitcoin.

“This regulation brings a competitive advantage for the EU,” Stefan Berger, the lawmaker who steered the rules through parliament, told Reuters “The European crypto-asset industry has regulatory clarity that does not exist in countries like the U.S.”

EU states have already approved rules which will be rolled out from mid 2024, requiring firms that issue and trade crypto assets to be licensed by a national regulator, giving them a “passport” to serve customers across the 27-member country bloc.



Europe’s Air Traffic Agency Under Attack By Pro-Russian Hackers

Europe’s air-traffic control agency said April 19 that it was under attack from pro-Russian hackers amid fears that Moscow could interfere with the region’s critical infrastructure as its confrontation with the West escalates.The cyberattack on the agency’s website started on April 19, a spokeswoman for the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, also known as Eurocontrol, said, adding that it wasn’t affecting the agency’s air-traffic control activities.A senior Eurocontrol official familiar with the situation said that the agency had ringfenced its operational systems and that air-traffic safety wasn’t at risk. Systems used for aviation safety are subject to stringent cyber-protection protocols and aren’t connected to external networks that could allow hackers to access them directly, the official said.

Russian Hackers Exploit Cisco Flaw To Target U.S. Government Agencies

APT28, a state-sponsored hacking group operated by Russian military intelligence, is exploiting a six-year-old vulnerability in Cisco routers to deploy malware and carry out surveillance, according to the U.S. and U.K. governments. In a joint advisory issued on April 18, U.S. cybersecurity agency CISA along with the FBI, the NSA and the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Center detail how the Russia-backed hackers exploited Cisco router vulnerabilities throughout 2021 with the aim of targeting European organizations and U.S. government institutions. The advisory said the hackers also hacked “approximately 250 Ukrainian victims,” which the agencies did not name.APT28, also known as Fancy Bear, is known for carrying out a range of cyberattacksespionage and hack-and-leak information operations on behalf of the Russian government.

Hackers Access Customer Data Of One Of The UK Government’s Biggest Contractors

Capita, one of the UK government’s biggest contractors, said that hackers may have accessed customer and internal data after a cyber attack on its servers last month, reports The Financial Times.  In an update on the cyber attack initially announced earlier this month, the company, which provides IT services to UK public and private sector organisations including the Ministry of Defense, said the incident had affected about 4% of its servers. “There is currently some evidence of limited data exfiltration from the small proportion of affected server estate which might include customer, supplier or colleague data,” said Capita in a statement on Thursday. The London-listed outsourcer confirmed that hackers had accessed its servers on or around March 22, adding that it had managed to interrupt the operation on March 31 and had “significantly restricted” the incident.

China Building Cyber Weapons To Highjack Enemy Satellites

China is building sophisticated cyber weapons to “seize control” of enemy satellites, rendering them useless for data signals or surveillance during wartime, according to a leaked US intelligence report. The U.S. assesses that China’s push to develop capabilities to “deny, exploit or hijack” enemy satellites is a core part of its goal to control information, which Beijing considers to be a key “war-fighting domain”. The CIA-marked document, which was issued this year and has not been previously reported, was one of dozens allegedly shared by a 21-year-old US Air Guardsman in the most significant American intelligence disclosures in more than a decade.


Einride Brings Its Electric Trucks To UK Freight Sector In Partnership With PepsiCo

Swedish electric and autonomous trucking company Einride is expanding into the UK.. Einride said that it’s looking to target the 1.6 billion tonnes of goods that are transported by road freight in the UK each year. Its first UK deployment will be in partnership with PepsiCo snack-food subsidiary Walkers, which will use Einride’s trucks and platform to deliver goods between the cities of Leicester and Coventry, which it says will help it cut fossil fuel-powered transport by 250,000 miles each year. Einride expanded into the U.S. in 2021 while in recent months it has rolled in to Germany and the Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) region, with plans in place to target Norway this year.


SpaceX’s Starship Explodes

SpaceX’s Starship rocket exploded on April 20, minutes after lifting off from a launchpad in South Texas. The rocket, the most powerful ever built, did not reach orbit but provided important lessons for the private spaceflight company as it worked toward a more successful mission.


Societe Generale Launches Euro Stablecoin

SG-Forge, the digital asset division of French bank Societe Generale, has launched a euro-denominated stablecoin on the ethereum public blockhain. Dubbed the EUR CoinVertible, the asset is designed to bridge the gap between traditional capital markets and the digital assets ecosystem. The coin could be put to use as a settlement asset for on-chain transactions, for corporate treasury, cash management and cash pooling activities, on-chain liquidity funding and refinancing, and for intra-day liquidity needs such as margin calls.


Google Plans To Intro Generative AI Into Its Advertising Business

Google plans to introduce generative artificial intelligence into its advertising business over the coming months, as big tech groups rush to incorporate the groundbreaking technology into their products. According to an internal presentation to advertisers seen by the Financial Times, the Alphabet-owned company intends to begin using the AI to create novel advertisements based on materials produced by human marketers. “Google already uses AI in its advertising business to create simple prompts that encourage users to buy products. However, the integration of its latest generative AI, which also powers its Bard chatbot, means it will be able to produce far more sophisticated campaigns resembling those created by marketing agencies.

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About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.