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Newsletter from 17/08/2022

European Union: Brussels aims for “digital diplomacy”

According to a Council document, the EU intends to focus more on “digital diplomacy” in the future. The text discusses cyber security, the establishment of international standards and more cooperation with “like-minded people” in crisis management. Plans for a new EU office in San Francisco were also confirmed.

The fact that digital technologies have become important competitive parameters that can shift the geopolitical balance of power has led the EU to increasingly invest in digital infrastructure and – as part of the Global Gateway strategy – in supporting partners in defining their regulatory approach to Technology based on a human-centric approach.

Against this background, the Council advocates for digital diplomacy to become a core component and an integral part of the EU’s external action. Digital diplomacy is intended to be closely coordinated with other EU external policies related to cyber threats and countering hybrid threats, including information manipulation and foreign interference.

To enhance EU digital diplomacy in and with the US, the EU will soon open its own office in San Francisco, a global hub for digital technology and innovation.
The conclusions of the document underline the importance of capacity building and the strategic promotion of technological solutions and regulatory frameworks that respect democratic values and human rights.

EU employee’s cellphones compromised with spyware

In a letter sent to European lawmaker Sophie in ‘t Veld, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said iPhone maker Apple had told him in 2021 that his iPhone had possibly been hacked using Pegasus, a tool developed and sold to government clients by Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group.

The warning started an investigation, and “indicators of compromise” were found. It is impossible, however, to attribute these indicators to a specific perpetrator with full certainty. Therefore, the investigation is still active.

Reuters first reported in April that the European Union was investigating whether phones used by Reynders and other senior European officials had been hacked using software designed in Israel. Reynders and the European Commission declined to comment on the report at the time. Reynders’ acknowledgement was made in response to inquiries from European lawmakers, who earlier this year formed a committee to investigate the use of surveillance software in Europe.

Recently the committee announced that its investigation found 14 EU member states had purchased NSO technology in the past.

Finland reports cyber attack: Parliament’s website was down for hours

Last Tuesday, the Finnish Parliament website was hacked. A so-called denial-of-service attack was carried out on the site, the parliamentary administration announced on Twitter. In the case of denial-of-service attacks, the affected server can only be accessed to a limited extent or not at all due to an artificially high demand. The website was not accessible for several hours.

The background is apparently a cyber attack by Russian hackers. They said they wanted to pay a “friendly visit” to the neighbouring country because of its NATO accession.

The Finnish parliament voted in May for Finland to join the military alliance. The country was thus responding to a changed security situation caused by the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine.

Google Maps: Fuel-saving routes start in Germany

A green leaf as a symbol for more environmental protection in the route: After the launch in North America, Google will also be introducing the option of selecting fuel-efficient routes in its German map app. For the suggestions, the software analyses both the course of the route, for example for possible inclines, and the current volume of traffic.

In addition to the fastest route, the new version of Google Maps will also show the fuel-saving route as an option if this is not already the fastest. It is marked by a green leaf. At a glance, you can see the relative fuel economy and difference in estimated time of arrival between routes and choose the most appropriate one. For Germany, where alternative drives are already widespread, Google has refined the software.

Unlike in the United States, where internal combustion engines still dominate, users in Germany can specify whether they are driving a petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric vehicle. For the start in Germany, the software was trained with local traffic patterns and the consumption of common vehicle types, emphasized Google manager Timo Rang. In the settings, users can also choose that the app should generally prefer fuel-efficient routes if the arrival times are similar.

According to Rang, using artificial intelligence and models from the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), it is estimated that using the fuel-efficient routes on Google Maps could save more than one million tons of CO₂ emissions worldwide every year.

Apparently, the new Google Maps software is not yet available to every end user. Instead, the new version with its functions will be rolled out successively in Germany in the coming weeks. So, availability may vary from household to household.