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MEPS raise concerns on digital security measures

Letter to President Tajani

A group of more than 30 MEPs sent the following letter to European Parliament Tajani, and Secretary General Welle.

Dear President Tajani,  

Dear Secretary General Welle,      

We write to express our concern with regard to digital security risks for MEP´s as well as staff. This is a general challenge, but there are specifics risks when traveling abroad on official parliamentary missions. In a number of countries, we must assume data can covertly be removed from laptops, mobile phones and other devices. Some basic security measures can already reduce the risks. However, many MEP´s as well as staff are not aware of the risks as well as the methods to increase their cyber- and information security.      

When MEP´s visited China earlier this year, no mention was made in the preparatory documents about the measures MEP´s may take to protect their personal and professional communications against digital espionage attempts. In the Netherlands, for instance, companies and individuals that accompanied the Prime Minister on a trade mission to China in April this year received a letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with tips on how personal and professional information could be protected. Furthermore, official travel advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs now includes the suggestion to bring an ´empty phone´ to China, Iran, Turkey and Russia, as it may be assumed information can be compromised.      

We call on you to provide for explicit sections on digital security in every briefing MEP´s receive when they visit third countries. Additionally, targeted briefings should be provided in specific cases. Staff already have to go through an obligatory security training when they want to join certain missions. These trainings should include also digital security awareness tests. The Parliament should further facilitate the uptake of using encrypted communications and may provide devices specially intended for travel, and which can be subject to a hard reset afterwards.      

Earlier this year the heads of six major US intelligence agencies have warned that American citizens should not use products and services made by Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE. US lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would ban government employees from using Huawei and ZTE phones altogether. Furthermore, the European Parliament has echoed some Member state governments´ concerns over the security implications of using Kaspersky security software. There are a number of private companies selling very intrusive surveillance and hacking tools, without oversight. What is the Parliament’s policy on protecting its MEPs and staff against the abuse of these devices and services?      

Especially with an eye on the next European elections, and the growing amount of well documented threats against cybersecurity and electoral integrity, it is vital that we take the needed measures here, and educate Members where needed. We must ensure that we can securely and confidentially exchange information, and that those outside the Parliament who wish to connect with us can do this safely as well

Marietje Schaake (ALDE)

Petras Austrevicius (ALDE)
Tunne Kelam (EPP)
Renate Weber (ALDE)
Liliana Rodrigues (S&D)
Dietmar Köster (S&D)
Helga Stevens (ECR)
Matthijs van Miltenburg (ALDE)
Laurentiu Rebega (ECR)
Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl (EPP)
Clare Moody (S&D)
Nils Torvalds (ALDE)
Reinhard Bütikofer (Greens/EFA)
Ramona Manescu (EPP)
Tibor Szanyi (S&D)
Patricia Lalonde (ALDE)
Hilde Vautmans (ALDE)
Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (ALDE)
Pascal Durand (Greens/EFA)
Arndt Kohn (S&D)
Ramon Tremosa i Balcells (ALDE)
Indrek Tarand (Greens/EFA)
Anna Fotyga (ECR)
Julie Ward (S&D)
Sophie in ’t Veld (ALDE)
Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE)
Julia Reda (Greens)
Anna Maria Corazza Bildt (EPP)
Danuta Hübner (EPP)
Ivica Tolić (EPP)
Ana Gomes (S&D)
Bas Belder (ECR)
Neena Gill (S&D)
Eva Kaili (S&D)
Nadja Hirsch (ALDE)
Josef Weidenholzer (Greens)
Miapetra Kumpula-Natri (S&D)

You can read the response by President Tajani here.